From a perspective outside HR, an employee wellness program can seem like just another perk, useful for attracting and retaining employees but not critical for business growth. As an HR team member, you know better.
For readers wondering “how to start an employee wellness program“, the first step is simple: make the business case for it
You know that a well-designed and properly promoted wellness program can bring innumerable business benefits — among them increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower healthcare costs — that can help your company operate more efficiently and competitively. You also know that the typical return on an employee wellness program is often many times the initial investment.
The question is, how can you communicate the immense business value of an employee wellness program to your company’s decision-makers?
What follows is a step-by-step plan for pitching an employee wellness program.
While wellness programs have many tangible and intangible benefits, the focus here is on the business case for employee wellness, translating wellness outcomes into concrete numbers that resonate with company leadership.
Step 1: Establish a Need
The first and most crucial element of your presentation should lay the groundwork for the employee wellness program by establishing both how businesses, in general, can benefit from employee wellness and how a wellness program would help your company specifically.
The data for this part of the presentation should come from a mix of internal and external sources.
Highlight Market Research
Employee wellness programs have taken off in recent years to the point where about half of employers with at least 50 employees and 90% of employers with over 50,000 employees offer workplace wellness benefits.
Nevertheless, wellness programming is nothing new; the earliest employee wellness programs date back to the 1970s or earlier (depending on how you define a wellness program).
Thanks to the recent employee wellness explosion and the long history of workplace wellness initiatives, you have access to a treasure trove of real-world data making the business case for employee wellness.
To get you started, here are four examples of exceptional employee wellness programs (including their measurable business impact) from well-known companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Google.
From there, you can enumerate some of the well-documented results possible with an employee wellness program. Click here for an exhaustive overview of the ROI of employee wellness. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Various studies place the ROI of employee wellness programming somewhere between $1.88 and $4 for every dollar spent.
- In a survey of over 500 business leaders, 90% said promoting wellness can improve employee productivity and performance.
- Over half of Gen Zers and nearly 60% of millennials consider wellness programs important or extremely important when choosing employers.
Zeroing in on productivity — a metric of particular interest to company leadership — we reported:
- Americans who rate their mental health as “fair” or “poor” report nearly 10 more unplanned absences per year compared to those who rate their mental health as “excellent” or “very good.”
- Wellness program participants have been shown to gain over 10 productive hours annually.
- According to a study of 111 wellness program participants, employees increased their productivity by about 10%.
Provide Internal Research Results
The need for an employee wellness program at your organization, and the shape it should take, depends on several factors. You can use collected and observational data to establish a baseline for your employees’ current wellness levels and interest in wellness benefits.
Options for gathering this information include:
- Analyzing absentee, productivity, and healthcare spending trends
- Anonymous employee polls
- Exit interviews and one-on-one conversations with current employees
- A one-time biometric screening event
Step 2: Outline Your Employee Wellness Program Plan
There is no best way to design an employee wellness program. Employee wellness programs can (and do) take many sizes and forms, touching on every aspect of holistic wellbeing, including physical and mental health, financial wellness, work-life balance, personal relationships, and community connections.
So, both to ensure you’re all on the same page and to demonstrate the limitless potential of employee wellness, you should outline how you envision your company’s wellness program.
Establish Your KPIs
Key performance indicators (KPIs) represent the “why” of your employee wellness program. What are you trying to achieve with your program, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Including KPIs in your wellness program pitch will help set expectations and provide a framework for spending discussions.
The KPIs you focus on will be specific to your organization’s goals, values, and employee mix. You should also choose realistic, quantifiable KPIs that can be traced directly to your wellness program.
To guide your thinking about suitable KPIs, we offered a list of 10 wellness program metrics to measure here, including program-focused benchmarks like participation and engagement, along with business-oriented measurements such as disability claims and healthcare utilization.
Introduce Plan Components
This step will be unique to your organization. You will choose your employee wellness program’s features based on — among other things — your company’s distinct employee population, objectives, and of course, budget.
There are plenty to choose from. As we have covered extensively, many innovative wellness program ideas have emerged over the past several years as our understanding of what it means to be well has expanded to include aspects of life beyond exercise and nutrition.
Use the following resources to find inspiration for your wellness program:
- 23 Must-Have Tools for Your Employee Wellness Toolkits in 2023 (& Beyond)
- 3 Virtual Wellness Challenge Ideas for HR Teams
- Five Financial Wellness Ideas for Your Employee Wellness Program
- Five Free (and High-Impact) Employee Wellness Program Ideas
- 6 Workplace Burnout Prevention Strategies Every HR Manager Should Know
- How to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace: Tips for HR Managers
We suggest starting with what you believe will be the highest impact wellness program components and featuring them in your business case presentation. You will almost certainly discover more wellness program ideas than your initial budget and resources can support. File these away in a backlog for future program development phases.
Share a Promotion Plan
Your company’s decision-makers will most likely be very interested in wellness program utilization. In other words, they will not want to spend money on a program that gets very little use (and, therefore, fails to achieve its potential ROI). So, you’ll want to assure leadership that you have a plan to promote your employee wellness program.
The most effective wellness program promotional strategies are continuous (not limited to open enrollment) and use multiple channels to reach distracted employees. In a recent article, we suggested seven ways to promote your employee wellness program, including digital postcards, explainer videos, employee texting, and virtual wellness fairs.
Step 3: Polish Your Presentation
In addition to their many business benefits, well-designed employee wellness programs are fun and exciting. Your presentation should capture this sense of excitement.
The financial bottom line matters most to your company leadership, but don’t hesitate to appeal to their values. Executives are employees, too, after all; many will look forward to joining group wellness challenges or de-stressing in the new on-site mindfulness room.
All the presentation design best practices apply here. Clean, bright illustrations will help keep your presentation light and engaging, while charts and pull-out quotes will highlight key data points.
Don’t go overboard on length or information density. Each section should take up a slide or two. (Consider creating a supplemental written report for executives interested in more details, and leave plenty of time for Q&A.)
Engage a Partner to Help Promote Your Employee Wellness Program
Whether you’re touting the value of an employee wellness program to skeptical executives or busy employees, Flimp can help.
Flimp is a communications partner for thousands of employer organizations, offering multiple communication platforms (including video, text messaging, portals, microsites, email, and guides), content development assistance and resources, and guidance on communications strategy. Click here to discuss how we can help you spread the word about your employee wellness initiative.