As more organizations use wellness programs to improve employee health and save on insurance costs, recent Gallup research has found that only 60 percent of employees know about their employers’ wellness programs. In addition, only 40 percent of those employees participate -- meaning less than a quarter of employees who work at a company that offers a wellness program actually participate in it.
Clearly, simply offering a wellness plan isn’t enough. So how can companies improve employee awareness of wellness benefits? As with all employee benefits, it comes down to communication. Making sure employees have access to information about these programs is important, but it’s also key to build a framework of communication so they learn about new programs and wellness challenges as your organization develops them.
Communicate from the beginning
For Stephanie Ciccarelli, who as co-founder and CMO of Voices.com has overseen employee programs at her organization, that means communicating when the employees are hired. "To ensure that there is no confusion and that employees are taking advantage of the great benefits offered to them through the company, incorporate information on your wellness program during the introductory training all new employees participate in during their first few days on the job,” she says. That way, new employees will understand that benefits communication is a priority at your organization.
You may need to customize some of your communications to reach different demographics. Use a variety of web-based and paper-based formats to ensure everyone gets the information they need. “A slide with the details and a verbal explanation can go a long way, especially with a team of Millennials who are used to 140 character communication,” Ciccarelli says.
In addition, different workplace demographics may respond better to different offerings. For example, employees who work in a warehouse may be more interested in stretches that can mitigate repetitive motions, while office workers may participate more willingly in stress-reduction programs.
Keep the conversation going
Ciccarelli says ongoing sessions at her organization can help boost understanding about wellness programs and, as a result, employee engagement. Voices.com offers “Training Tuesday” sessions to foster ongoing communications. “Employee 'experts' can share knowledge or insight with co-workers post-lunch in a shared space,” she says. “Offer a training session on wellness benefits and updates every few months, and you will have more engaged employees and a platform for communication."
These Training Tuesday sessions have become so popular that the company has recently implemented a second session called “Training Thursday” as well as a “Wellness Wednesday.” An appointed employee coordinates yoga in the park across from the office during lunch and after work, coordinates golf outings, pick-up games of basketball, and makes smoothies for team members in the office kitchen, for example.
Wellness programs work only if people participate in them, and they can’t participate if they don’t know about them. Providing wide varieties in the way you communicate and keeping the conversation going can help your organization reach its wellness goals.
Winston Benefits is an HR solutions company that helps businesses enhance and optimize employee benefit plans, enrich compensation and rewards programs, and save money on benefits communication, enrollment and administration. Contact us to learn more.