Wellness programs succeed with executive buy-in, competition, peer pressure

If insurers want their wellness programs to succeed, they must obtain buy-in from their employer groups' C-suite executives, reported BenefitsPro.

"The biggest strength [of wellness programs] is our leaders who are engaged," Tom Cantwell, vice president, total rewards and HR systems at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, said at an executive health and benefits conference, BenefitsPro noted. "The biggest weakness is those who aren't engaged, and they're showing employees it's OK not to engage."

In fact, Washington state's King County experienced a drastic reduction in costs because its executive team fully embraced the wellness program, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Panelists speaking at the conference discussed other lessons learned from implementing their own wellness programs. Here's a summary of three of the four key factors BenefitsPro noted:

1. Start small: Just because companies haven't already launched a wellness program doesn't mean they shouldn't try at all. "If you don't have a wellness program, it's OK to start small," Cantwell said. Launching wellness programs take time and require tweaks and other changes.

2. Invite competition: One effective motivating factor to a wellness program is to invite competition among employees. Those can include fitness challenges or fun workplace physical events. For example, Jamba Juice has a six-week long Jamba Olympics event. "Our executives are very competitive," Kathy Wright, vice president of human resources at Jamba Juice, said at the conference. "Employees and groups will wear costumes and work together as a team. It really makes it fun."

3. Allow for healthy peer pressure: The panelists said peer pressure actually helps employees participate in wellness programs, especially when employees are losing weight or making other changes that are obvious to coworkers. Karlyn Byham, benefit administrator at Bloodworks Northwest, said sharing small success stories can really motivate others. "Smaller stories can be really helpful too, like someone who says they did 10,000 steps in a day for the first time ever... Some of these are tiny milestones but they can really shift the culture." Managers also can impact the program's success by celebrating when their employees reach certain goals, no matter how small, to help boost employee morale, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the BenefitsPro article