5 Keys to Wellness Program Participation and Loyalty

3-minute read

An HES client recently noted how the pandemic caused decline in wellness participation… until now. Implementing our new Right On the Money program yielded a dramatic registration jump — more than double their previous challenge. And participation is significantly higher among younger employees, suggesting financial fitness is a top concern for recent hires (often the most challenging to engage).

What does this experience teach us about participation and loyalty to your program?

  1. Know what employees want. It sounds simple yet is sometimes overlooked. When wellness leaders experience success in a certain lane, there’s a tendency to cruise along — content with positive feedback from longtime participants — unaware we’ve missed the exit.
    Finding a new route to significance requires intentional inquiry with those most underrepresented:
    What are pressing concerns about work? Outside of work?
    Where could they use help?
    What’s unappealing about employee wellness services? What would interest them?
    What’s 1 thing the organization can do to improve quality of life?
  1. Give them what they want… and no more. If you do the work of learning what employees want consistently, a handful of items will emerge to address head-on. Today it might be financial fitness and work/life balance. Next year a focus on mental well-being and social impact may bubble to the top.
    It’s impractical to think you can meet everyone’s needs, everywhere, all at once. Don’t try. Even the most robust portal — the Swiss Army knife of wellness — can’t do it.
    Having real impact in priority areas that matter to many employees makes what you do important, not just nice to have… and not expendable overhead when times get tough.
  1. Package and deliver knock-your-socks-off wellness. As you recall your best experiences purchasing products or services, note what sets them apart from others. Great quality? Attention to detail? Ease of use? Going beyond what’s expected? Graciousness?
    If you buy wellness services, expect nothing less than outstanding products, top-shelf service, and commitment to a partnership that serves your employees’ interest first.
    By narrowing your focus to what matters most you have a better chance of buying or creating truly memorable, life-altering wellness experiences.
  1. Cultivate wellness program evangelists. When you deliver exceptional well-being programs, potential advocates emerge — often revealing themselves in glowing testimonials. Invite them to become ambassadors by:
    Sharing their experience at department meetings, through Slack, Yammer, Microsoft Teams,
    .. or other internal collaboration tools
    Appearing in a promo video highlighting their results
    Recruiting colleagues to participate in your next wellness challenge
    Joining your wellness champion network.
  1. Empower employees by giving them autonomy, space. Organizations that tether employees to the wellness program through ongoing incentives or disincentives are doing them a disservice and shooting well-being efforts in the foot. Occasional and random low-cost gifts can add to the fun. But if participation is a condition for lower-cost premiums or cash, you may be creating resentment rather than goodwill.
    If you’re delivering great services on a regular basis, that’s enough. There’s no need for a program to be always on. Employees have jobs to do and lives to live. Give them time and space to put their new health knowledge and behavior to work without being required to log in so the wellness program “gets credit.”


Boosting participation in the short run is easy; lots of enticements will drive up numbers. But repeat participation, loyalty to the wellness program — and resulting benefits to the organization — call for a long game with commitment to the 5 keys outlined here.


Dean WitherspoonDean Witherspoon
Chief collaborator, nudger, tinkerer; leads the most inventive team creating well-being and sustainable living programs. Reach out if you’d like to talk about employee well-being, emotional fitness, or eco-friendly living.