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We’ve Got It Backwards

Employees want workplaces to prioritize their health, yet engagement continues to lag in many employer-sponsored wellbeing programs. Despite significant organizational investments in targeting strategies and incentivizing participation, organizations struggle to implement programs that are highly valued among employees.

Organizations that offer data-driven strategies have more engagement success than those with inspirational-only programs. Leaders could use more clarity on what successful wellbeing programs look like and what data can drive engaging strategies.

Health assessment and biometric data are the most common data sets available and both are helpful in creating awareness around health risks, segmenting workforce populations, and targeting strategies. If program success is defined as informing employees of their health risks, then health assessment and biometric-driven strategies get it done. However, success is often defined around some kind of health improvement, which requires engaging employees in a sustained behavior change process that moves them from awareness to self-ownership.

This is why, despite incentivized participation, health risk-only strategies often fail to meet long-term participation and health goals. Sustained engagement in behavior change requires data to understand employees’ health perceptions and where they are in the spectrum of behavior change.

In a data review using a Mayo Clinic risk stratification model, Wellvation compared employees’ perceptions of their health against their lifestyle and biometric risks. Three-quarter of participants self-reported good health, while aggregate data showed only one-quarter having healthy values. Evidence also showed that those with the greatest risks had the biggest perception disparity.

Aligning perceptions and reality requires an active and supportive behavior change process. The gold standard is the cognitive learning process that gets employees to “think about their thinking.” When faced with new information, hidden perceptions, biases, and misconceptions can lower the importance and relevance of new information, preventing buy-in and justifying unhealthy behaviors. Even employees who fully accept their health risks and are highly motivated to change fall short without the right skills, confidence, and support to weather the stress that comes with change.

Building data sets that incorporate health perception and change indicators along with health risks gives employers opportunities to personalize strategies that consider what employees most want to take action on. Since perception and change data can’t be sourced from a third party, employers need flexible wellbeing technologies with data collection and analytic capabilities to continuously scan the environment and offer up relevant content at moments of motivation and interest. Employers that incorporate AI and computer learning gain opportunities to accelerate engagement by increasing personalization as data grows. Rather than focusing on participation rates, leadership has the tools to track health culture alignment and adherence.

For more information about health perception and change indicators, schedule a quick 30-min call.