How to Create Successful Corporate Wellness Programs

Why do some corporate wellness programs succeed while others fail?

There are a variety of factors that can explain the success or failure of a particular program: company commitment, communication, employee attitudes toward health, even the structure of the program itself. But all these factors are part of a broader dynamic: the compatibility of a wellness program with the company’s corporate culture.

A corporate culture is collective behavior based on a set of shared values and beliefs that develop within a company over time. Factors like systems, expectations and even language shape how employees act, think and interact with each other. How effectively these factors work together, and thus how employees within the organization work together within the work environment, will determine the success of a company sponsored program such as a wellness program.

If the channels of communication within the company are poor, it will be difficult to promote a wellness program. Likewise, if they are good, promoting wellness becomes much easier.

The attitudes of middle management are another important determinate of a wellness program’s success. Middle management is the critical link between the company’s senior leadership and the broad base of employees. Their attitudes have a powerful influence on company morale and employees’ investment in programs. If they are enthusiastic, employees are likely to be so as well. However, if middle management has a cynical view of the company’s initiatives, this is likely to negatively affect employee interest and make it more difficult to get employee buy-in to a company’s wellness program.

Utilizing a company’s culture and encouraging middle management investment are the first steps in developing a successful corporate wellness strategy.

At Rocky Mountain Health Plans, we have developed a tool to better understand a company’s culture and its compatibility with specific wellness initiatives. Our survey looks at three areas:

• Employee perceptions of the employer’s commitment to wellness;
• Their willingness to change their behavior; and,
• The type of culture in which the wellness program will operate.

Once a company understands these factors, it can design a group health wellness program that fits its culture and, if necessary, help to reshape it.

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