by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Too often, wellness program managers give up on a service after a lukewarm response. Instead of learning from shortcomings we turn in a different direction, trying to avoid any similar situation. That’s often a mistake — there’s a lot to learn from what went wrong. Here are some questions to ensure the second time is a charm by learning from the first attempt:

  • What drove the development of this program? Was it a need expressed by participants, or something you or management felt was necessary to address health risk or cost? If your services aren’t grounded in interests and readiness, you’re programming only by chance.
  • How was the service positioned? Did you highlight personal benefits known to be important to your target groups?
  • Were preferences considered? Only a few may be interested in personal health coaching, but many may want web-based learning tools on the subject, for example.
  • Did you test your assumptions? Sometimes what feels like the greatest idea from a brainstorming session falls apart in the real world. When introducing new approaches, always test them on your target audience before a complete rollout.
  • Did you promote adequately? We’re often surprised at how little promotion many programs receive. Take a cue from credit card companies who, if your credit is good, will bombard you through the mail and email — as well as advertise on TV, in magazines, and on the Internet.

Finally, if you’ve got a good service and you know it, don’t give up. Hard work and fine tuning can make it a success, but only if you stick with it.

by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Whenever you can, use a number in a program name or promotion. Examples: Walk 4 Today, 5 on 5, Health 4 the Holidays, 5 A Day, 6 Weeks to Wellness. Numbers stick — they're concrete and easy to understand. And a numeral can create a visual, branding impact that’s harder to achieve with words or symbols. Motel 6 and 7-11 have nothing to do with a $6 stay or a convenience store that’s open from 7 AM to 11 PM. But the identification is strong.

Some health promotion examples:

  • Sign up in the next 10 days and get a free heart-healthy cookbook
  • Be one of the first 50 registrants and get 50% off the participation fee
  • Answer 3 questions for the chance to win a full-body massage
  • 9 of 10 participants in NutriSum said they lost weight or are eating healthier
  • Take 3 minutes to complete this assessment — it may be your best time investment this week.

You get the idea. For your next program or promotion, take 30 minutes to brainstorm how you can build numbers into the equation.

by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Occasionally we get to work with a newly formed wellness committee or expanded professional staff to launch or push their programming to another level. One of the first questions we ask is: “What’s the #1 cause of stress in your organization?” The responses aren’t always unanimous, but there are usually no more than 3 answers — regardless of the group’s size.

Depending on the stressors, and their intensity, we explain it may not be realistic to start a new wellness initiative until the problems are resolved. The reason: stress is a demotivator. If people are down about things happening in the organization, it’s a stretch to believe they’ll get excited about your health promotion efforts, no matter how dazzling.

Here then are the most common stressors we hear and why you should work to reduce, eliminate, or at least acknowledge them while attempting to build your wellness program:

  • Change. The only thing that won’t change in today’s organizations is the fact there will always be change. But change shouldn’t be fashionable. Always have sound business reasons for adding to the turbulence. Many workplaces haphazardly adopt new approaches because other organizations in the industry are doing it. But unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel for a while, you have a solid rationale for the way you’re operating. Don’t abandon an approach completely in favor of another — without good reason.
  • Uncertainty. For all the empowerment hype in the last 2 decades, many organizations still don’t seem to trust employees enough to share plans until they’ve leaked out and generated rumors and misperceptions. Lack of information makes employees feel dumb and suspicious.
  • Politics. Accurate or not, plenty of workers believe it’s more how you play the game than the quality of your work that determines success. If employees feel politics are the road to success, they won’t be motivated to produce better products or services.
  • Indifference. Layoffs leave a lot of casualties in their wake — still working for the organization. A belief the company no longer cares about rank and file employees, while top executive pay packages continue to climb, makes employees ambivalent toward anything the employer sponsors… especially your health promotion services.

A good wellness program will never cure the ills of a poorly run organization. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you recognize any of these demotivators at your workplace, do what you can to change them — first within your own department, then among others.

If you don’t have an upper management champion who believes in you and your purpose, try to get one soon. Share employee perceptions and testimonials, along with your ideas for eliminating demotivators. As the stress subsides, interest in your health enhancement efforts will go up.