5 ways to transform workplace wellness initiatives

Employers today offer a plethora of wellness programs. In fact, large employers offer an average of 10, according to our “Annual Wellness in the Workplace Study.” But robust consumer engagement in these programs remains elusive for many employers.

To stay viable, we need to continue evolving our health and well-being services to a consumer-first model. A new, transformative approach is needed to take the lessons learned in behavioral science, incentives, culture, design and consumer experience to drive significantly higher engagement than experienced today. The ultimate goal is to move to a model that builds appropriate services and resources around identifying goals and life purpose of the individual.

Today’s consumers are not those of a decade or so ago — where many wellness efforts remain focused. Now, consumers want wellness services delivered in ways that are meaningful, fun, time-saving, shareable and digitally diverse. And they want services to be personally relevant, addressing their physical, social, emotional and financial needs as well as their sleep, energy and resiliency.

Where do we go from here? Here are five transformative ideas:

#1: Updating and diversifying how we deliver services is a must. People are now accustomed to a high standard of service via multiple channels, and they expect consistency across phone, online, digital and in-person experiences. It’s time to enhance traditional approaches to include streaming, texts, video, chats, mobile and virtual programs, to name a few.

#2: Engagement can become more relevant (and likely) by applying the latest findings in brain science to program design: We know humans are bad at delaying gratification and worse at translating population risk to future personal exposure. People are more likely to participate in wellness activities when rewards are immediate and programs are personally relevant.

#3: Evolving programs to address well-being — real-life issues that include social, financial and emotional issues — also will make them more personally relevant to consumers. Evolving the traditional program mix is critical to this transformation.

#4: Incentives can shift from individual, financially focused to group-oriented philanthropic models, whereby if a group of employees achieves a certain activity level, a donation is made to a charitable organization. While incentives linked to benefit design may continue, there is also a need to balance the delayed reward with immediate rewards that might allow someone to purchase consumer goods, or fund an upgrade to music or video streaming services or other more relevant consumer-oriented incentives, such as social recognition.

#5: Data and analytics lie at the heart of this opportunity. By unearthing transformational insights from the vast data we amass, we can inform better decisions and discover new solutions to some of our industry’s age-old challenges. Ultimately, the role of data and analytics needs to shift from being strictly an ID/stratification tool in the context of wellness, to being an incredible engagement lever. We need to tap into artificial intelligence, including machine learning technology, to use our data to inform future actions.

Wellness transformation is a model that employers invest in as part of their overall business and human capital strategy. The investment in wellness is viewed as a critical element in achieving business performance goals based on talent development, leadership engagement, customer service, quality and corporate values, as well as the need for active, energetic, creative, mission-driven team members.

To learn more about Wellness Transformation, click here


About the Author:

Seth Serxner, Chief Health Officer, Senior Vice President of Population Health, Optum Care Solutions

Seth Serxner’s deep knowledge of behavior change, population health and measurement allows him to visualize and deliver on program innovation. He has more than 25 years of experience in health and productivity management, and has published more than 30 articles.

Prior to joining Optum, Dr. Serxner served for nine years as partner and senior consultant for Mercer’s Total Health Management specialty. He also spent a decade each in academia and private industry. He holds a master of public health from UCLA, and a doctorate from the University of California, Irvine. He’s a board member, executive committee member and vice president of the C. Everett Koop Health Project. He also edits and is a reviewer for several peer-reviewed journals


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