Thinking about introducing a wellness program to your organization? Or ready to take your existing program to the next level? First, get your boss’ buy-in.
Without it, an initiative or program will just remain an idea. With it, you just might help usher in lasting change for employees and the organization.
Here are seven things your boss wants to know about wellness:
1. "How much will it cost?"
While this may not be the very first question your boss may ask, it certainly is one of the very first she's thinking about. Determining cost is relevant, but communicating cost-effectiveness can propel or postpone progress.
Speak in terms of return on investment – because dedicating resources to improve the health of employees, for all intents and purposes, is an investment. Depending on program scope and design, great returns can be experienced in the short and long-term.
As with any investment, there is a level of risk and reward involved. Make your mission to identify each, and communicate any associated hard-dollar and/or soft-dollar savings the program or initiative will achieve.
2. "How will this benefit employees?"
Your boss wants to know how this program or initiative will create value and ultimately make lives better.
Is it understandable? Is it achievable? Are there too many exceptions or contingencies? You’ve got to be prepared to answer questions any employee in the organization – from the C-Suite to the assistants – may have.
Let’s say you want to begin implementing an annual health assessment. What will "knowing the numbers" do for Karen in Accounting? Or Josh in I.T.?
Maybe you’re ready for a more comprehensive wellness strategy and are exploring an on-site or a near-site clinic option. Make it clear what the benefit to employees will be. This might include no out-of-pocket cost for generic prescriptions, reduced wait time, or easy appointment scheduling.
Define the benefit and be intentional in reducing, if not removing, any barriers to achieving the benefit.
3. "How will this benefit the organization?"
While your boss may have employees' best interest at heart, he also has to justify the business case for funding and supporting a wellness program or initiative. We’ve already talked about return on investment and the differences between hard-dollar and soft-dollar savings.
Here, we’re talking about expanding on buzzwords your boss may have heard but not fully understand. Words like absenteeism, presenteeism, engagement, and morale. Research each and discover what each term might mean for your organization and the proposed program or initiative.
For example, morale is more than employees feeling warm and fuzzy inside; employees want to feel like they’re a part of something more and feel genuinely appreciated. Wellness programs and initiatives go a long way for employees. It’s a visible and tangible way in which employees feel invested in and valued. Feeling valuable influences morale — and improved morale means more loyal employees.
4. "Which products or programs are most effective?"
It’s a common mistake to engage in an initiative that is based on an assumption that it will be of interest or priority to employees and the organization. Support the scope and selection of your wellness program through quantitative and qualitative research.
Conduct an aggregate employee health report to highlight top health issues, and pair it with an in-depth employee survey that identifies top interests and concerns. Then, do your due diligence and explore existing programs and products that help to close the health gap and address issues across the care continuum.
Maybe losing weight isn’t a priority for your employees, but affording medication is. Maybe to reduce stress your employees might find it more relevant to take a financial literacy course instead of yoga class.
Don’t let a perceived issue dictate your wellness strategy. Support the scope and selection of your wellness program by measuring and listening.
5. "How will you keep employees engaged?"
Engagement strategies are dependent on the scope of your program. For example, if you’re looking to influence employees to live more active lifestyles, why not invest in or subsidize wearable devices for employees to make progress measurable?
Go a step further and offer quarterly rewards in the form of gift cards or paid time off for the most active employees or employees who achieve weight loss for a little added motivation. More holistic programs that include on-site or near-site clinics and/or disease management programs can leverage incentives (and penalties) to influence engagement.
Just make sure that that the risks and rewards are proportional to the scope of your program.
6. "How will we measure success?"
Here is where you define the win (or help your boss to help define it with you). There are a number of metrics you can gleam from but make sure you keep it focused and consistent.
For example, maybe it’s a quarterly report of employee engagement and satisfaction. Or an annual report on aggregate biometric data. How about both? Whatever success looks like for your organization, set realistic goals and ensure that you have the tools necessary to measure them accurately.
When you keep the end in mind, it keeps the means much more realistic and effective.
7. "What do you need from me?"
Your boss wants to know how she can best help you. Think beyond the budgetary or administrative approval requirements here.
Let her know how she can best share the vision of the program and become involved. If your direct supervisor doesn’t have the time to be intimately involved, then ask for recommendations.
Maybe the CFO is a marathoner or the CTO is a paleo enthusiast. The key is to get leadership involved visibly as well as behind-the-scenes.
The questions above will get you started. You may (and should) anticipate additional questions your boss might have and make it a point to support it with relevant research.
Get closer to getting the "yes" that employees and your organization will both benefit from.