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September 10, 2014
Look Short-Term: Don’t Wait Years to Measure the ROI on Wellness Programs
In just the last decade, corporate America has jumped on the wellness bandwagon with both feet. Indeed, wellness programs have become the corporate version of a commercial craze (like when every kid wanted a Rubik’s cube or a Cabbage Patch Doll and every parent scrambled to find one).

Now that the craze-dust has started to clear, you probably have started to try to figure out the value your own corporate wellness program has returned (or your financial people are starting to ask). And in the process, you may have become frustrated as you realize that, using traditional measures, it can take years to accurately determine the ROI of these programs.

Luckily, there is a short-term way to bridge the gap: Simply start asking your employees how they are doing.

It can take up to three years to assess ROI, defined as a meaningful reduction in health care costs as measured in hard dollars. But, you don’t have to be stuck in the dark wondering whether your investment is going to pay off or be a waste. Instead, you can take meaningful steps to define your programs’ impact right now by using self-reported surveying that measures employees’ own perception of well-being.

Instead of scrambling to throw more bells and whistles into your wellness program, engage your employees in conversations about what they need to feel a greater sense of well-being, ask what truly matters to them, and then be of service. Does your wellness program help your employees achieve the goals that are important to them? Does it fit their needs, interests, and values? Simply knowing if your employees feel better, more hopeful, more competent, more confident this month than last can be a good indicator of immediate ROI that leads to long-term results that count for you.

Simple questions, like the ones below, could provide valuable information that will point to the success or failure of your wellness program.
  • Look at the big picture to ask: Overall, are your health and wellness goals being met through the program we have deployed? Ask your employees: What’s your general sense of well-being? Do you feel healthier and happier this month?
  • Look at social wellness to ask: How are you doing with people closest to you? How are you doing in your relationships with friends, acquaintances, and coworkers? How connected do you feel to people around you?
  • Look at spiritual wellness to ask: How aligned are your values with the values of the organization? How does the work you do for this organization mirror your values and give you a meaningful way to express them?
  • Look at occupational wellness to ask: Are you doing something that feels rewarding to you? Does it engage you and allow you to feel that you’re making a meaningful contribution? Do you feel supported and respected?
You can choose to wait three years and use biometric measures to predict the development of chronic disease and mortality among your workforce if you want, but what really works is simply to ask the people who count — your employees. If your employees are happier and have an overall sense of well-being, they are probably healthier, too…and more engaged at work. And more engaged employees lead to more profitable and productive companies.

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Dr. Deborah Teplow is CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Wellness Education. She developed the curriculum that led to US Department of Labor’s approvals  of wellness coaching as a new US occupation and a Registered Apprenticeship Program. She was founder and CEO of Health Focus medical publishing, has served on an expert panel for the US Department of Health and Human Services, as a director on the board for the Global Alliance for Medical Education, and a subcommittee chair for the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education. https://www.instituteforwellness.com/
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