Sometime between your first and fourth year in wellness you ran a program, health fair, screening, or other event that was wildly successful. For the next 1 to 4 years you rode the wave until eventually the interest in that service declined, participation fell off, and it was put to pasture. What happened?
This all-too-familiar scenario reinforces the belief among wellness managers that programs, like people, follow a predictable pattern — they’re born, they grow, they mature, they get old, and they die. When participation trails off, they get lower emphasis. With less attention, participation declines further, until the decision is made to discontinue the service altogether.
You’d have to agree, wellness isn’t rocket science — it may be more difficult. Getting people to change behavior ingrained over decades can be tough, even if it’s in their own best interest. To underscore the thought, consider that we’ve successfully landed a robot on Mars, yet we achieved less than 25% of the CDC’s Healthy People 2010 objectives.
Sometimes as wellness managers we think we know the solution before we’ve even asked questions. Problem solving — whether at NASA or in your wellness program — is most successful if you have a method. Here are some approaches to use on your most vexing challenges.
Every other month Special-Lite employees eagerly gather around a revolving drum in hopes their name will be drawn to win a prize. The lighthearted Fit Ticket raffle encourages the 120 employees of this Decatur MI door and partition manufacturer to participate in wellness initiatives and activities.
Stacey Hollenbeck (Environmental, Health, & Safety Manager) explains, “We’ve placed a Fit Ticket value on virtually all wellness-related activities. Depending on the activity, employees can earn anywhere from 1-25 tickets for preventive physicals and a variety of health screenings such as prostate or gynecological exams, biometric screenings, and dental cleanings. Participation in community and charity events is typically worth 5 tickets. Quitting tobacco use for 6 months is worth 25 tickets.”
You work hard to offer top-notch, engaging wellness programs and services — so why don’t more people participate… is it something you said? Maybe.
How you communicate about your workplace wellness program shapes perception — and, like it or not, perception is reality. Traditional bulletins containing just the facts are boring. Heavy-handed or patronizing messages are offputting. Instead, use lessons from self-determination theory (SDT) to carefully craft communications that appeal and inspire.
Feed the Needs
In Why We Do What We Do (Penguin, 1995), researcher Edward Deci explains SDT principles. To be self-motivated for any task, people need a sense of autonomy, competence, and interpersonal connectedness. Daniel Pink addresses some of the same concepts in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Riverhead Books, 2009). Pink points out that “only engagement can produce mastery (competence) — becoming better at something that matters.”