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Gallup Advises How to Fix Wellness Programs

Originally posted February 5, 2015 by Dan Cook on benefitspro.com.

Pollster Gallup is inserting itself into the wellness program fray in a strongly subjective manner. Of late, Gallup has been trumpeting its well-being index, created in an attempt to find out how folks in America are feeling about life in general and, more specifically, about such facets of their lives as their occupation.

Now, combining its well-being surveys with polls of workers soliciting input on company wellness programs, Gallup has released a new guide on wellness programs and how to fix a busted program.

With survey data from previous years as a foundation for its premise, Gallup has concluded that most company wellness plans don’t work. Not to worry — Gallup has solutions for those who would increase the effectiveness of their wellness efforts.

In a recent article on its website, “Most Company Wellness Programs Are a Bust,” Gallup asks employers to consider certain key questions with respect to existing programs.

“When you examine your company’s current investment in wellness, does it focus on health and wellness alone, or does it encompass the other key elements that influence how your employees experience their lives?” Gallup poses. It lists the “other key elements” as:

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals;
  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life;
  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security;
  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community;
  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

These happen to form the basis for its well-being index.

“Expanding your well-being approach to encompass all five well-being elements will pay dividends by helping your company improve the bottom line and outperform competitors. Gallup’s analysis shows that adults who are thriving in all five elementsreport 41 percent fewer unhealthy days, are 65 percent less likely to be involved in a workplace accident, and are 81 percent less likely to look for a new employer, for example, than adults who are thriving in just physical well-being alone.

Impressive numbers.

Next, Gallup offers the following guideposts for wellness program empowerment.

Take a holistic approach to well-being

Don’t just expect an off-the-shelf, or even a customized, wellness program to turn your workplace in the Magic Kingdom of Business Bliss. “Businesses that take a holistic view of well-being recognize that their organization identity — why they exist, how they are known in the market and how they live and work — influence an employee’s ability to achieve higher well-being. A comprehensive approach requires:

  • integrating well-being into your beliefs, behaviors and systems
  • managers who can engage their work teams and create a local environment that supports well-being
  • employees who take responsibility for improving their own well-being

Make well-being an integral part of the culture

This requires companies to strategically add content to the benefits program that will help employees live fuller, more rewarding lives. Such opportunities have to be seen as extensions of the company’s well-being philosophy.

For example, Gallup says, “scheduling a financial education workshop on retirement planning might boost employees’ financial well-being, but only if leaders and managers construct pathways that allow employees to attend — by canceling a regular meeting in its place, for example, or by counting the time as employee development.”

Get managers engaged

Gallup says the level of management involvement can make or break an initiative to improve employee well-being and thus reap the benefits in higher productivity, etc.

“Our experience shows that managers play a key role in promoting well-being by:

  • creating an environment where employees feel they’re supported and in control of their well-being
  • operationalizing company initiatives and removing local barriers that could disrupt the successful launch of well-being programs
  • pointing employees toward well-being resources and providing opportunities to use these resources in their roles
  • seeing the growth of each employee as an end in itself instead of a means to an end.”

The results won’t come overnight but will be the output of a consistent focus on well-being, driven by commitment from the top and input from the troops.

“By creating a culture that allows employees to thrive across the five well-being elements, organizations gain a competitive advantage from employees’ maximized performance, reduced turnover and enhanced engagement,” Gallup concludes.