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Personalized Wellbeing

Personalization is certainly the buzz in employer-wellbeing. Employers look for it. Vendors claim to do it. But what does it mean for capabilities, offerings, and experiences? Does setting your own goals or picking activities equal personalization.

Personalization has no standard definition within the wellbeing industry. Vendor capabilities vary, and its catch-all usage means companies need to know what they are looking for. Understanding the research behind personalization and how it ties to workforce engagement, health culture, and improved health can support decision-making.

What the Research Says

What’s the me in wellbeing? How is this going to work for me?Cognitive and behavioral research is undisputed in that wellbeing works when it is important, relevant, and meaningful to people. Personalities, relationships, and how people find joy, all play into people’s wellness journeys, and all are very personal. For wellbeing to happen, people have to find meaning or their own “me” to create meaningful, long-term lifestyle change. Wellbeing influencers can also be hidden or obscured. Experiences and instincts can drive quick responses and cement mindsets that impact decisions, perceptions, and abilities to change without people even knowing. Offering programming based in Cognitive Learning Theory to encourage people to think about their thinking and can unlock behavior change. Rather than pushing forward top-down strategies, employers may have more success going in slower and softer. Supporting employees to discover their own wellbeing paths may actually get to a resilient workforce sooner.

Does Personalization Matter If It Doesn’t Improve Health?

Allowing employees to set their own goals, choose their own activities, or progress at their own pace dips a toe into personalization. But doing so without the guidance or framework of research experts, clinically-proven content, or personal insights to ensure that activities align to goals and progression happens, leaves employees unsupported and floundering. As humans, we don’t know what we don’t know, and when left to our own devices, we can feel empowered in the short-term, but still fail in the long run. After all, repeated trial-and-error, misinformation, and clouded judgment is what promotes poor health in the first place.

Personalized wellbeing programs that improve health are based on well-researched methodologies that are generally accepted within the scientific community to improve health. Having mechanisms that align choices of activities to goals as well as goals to health risks and abilities to change is key. Technology that scans for engagement opportunities to capture moments of motivation accelerates learning. Content that is filtered and sequenced to meet employees where they are and push them to progress fosters relevancy and ownership.

What to Look For

Find vendors that take personalization seriously. Ask them questions about what personalized wellbeing means to them and push them on the specifics of their capabilities. See if they go beyond how their programming can be customized to user preferences or “pick and choose” approaches. Here are some questions to explore.

  • How does your program differentiate among employees?
  • What are the analytical indicators for evaluating a person’s readiness to change in addition to health and lifestyle risks?
  • How does health information and activities filter to ensure relevancy and meaning?
  • Where do you get your health information and activities? How do you know that they improve health?
  • What mechanisms are in place to ensure that employees choose activities and engage in content that aligns with their goals and that their goals align with risks?
  • What mechanisms are in place to ensure progress?
  • How does information get pushed to employee portals, emails, text messages?
  • What types of controls do employers have over programming decisions?
  • How does the platform scan the cultural environment to inform leaders on health culture misalignments, engagement opportunities, and progress, as well as drive activation and reporting?
  • How does the platform change up its programming as people progress in their journeys?

With a few questions, brokers and employers can sift through fluff to find substance and discover the ultimate prize:  What does a personalized employee wellbeing program mean to us?