We’ve a saying at Health Enhancement Systems: People buy with their eyes, but they become repeat clients/participants based on their experience. In other words, to attract interest and excitement for a product or service it has to look good, but that only works once. If the user doesn’t have an awesome experience with your offering, you’re going to have a hard time attracting them again. And awesome experiences are the result of design thinking, not just how pretty something looks.
What Is Design Thinking?
It starts with the desired outcome. In worksite wellness that translates into improved population health or well-being. That’s a big nut to crack. But if you approach it like other great designers of complex products or systems (think Apple, Amazon, Facebook) with a single end-user in mind, the job becomes less daunting: How do we design everything we do around the end goal of creating an environment where individual health improvement can happen?
Achieving great participant experiences requires design thinking by everyone on your team — from ease of use and utility of your wellness portal, to quality of your education programs, to the way people answer the phone. Here’s how to get started.
When studying the corporate culture of highly successful workplace wellness programs, one striking similarity is commitment to doing the right thing for employees. This is certainly true of Delta Air Lines.
According to Jae Kullar, Manager of Health and Wellbeing, “In 1929, our founder, C.E. Woolman, created a list of guiding principles that later became known as Delta’s Rules of the Road. These principles still reign true today and are used as a guidebook for all Delta employees, defining the company’s basic core values of honesty, integrity, respect, staying competitive, and leadership. These guidelines are reflected by senior management’s corporate goal of investing in our culture through wellness. We live and work by these rules and pride ourselves on building a strong network of support for each other and our community. The evolution of the wellness movement was a natural fit into how we’ve always done business.”
Jae took on the new role in December 2013. “We already had a cadre of 200 wellness champions in place with a personal interest in the program and a willingness to help increase coworker participation. One of the first things I did was add a leadership layer, drawn from each major division, I can contact directly. In addition to organizing their champions, these leaders develop an action plan and calendar to move our goals forward. Depending on available resources, they may develop their own initiatives and programs that complement the corporate plan. For example, one leader is passionate about healthier options in vending machines, so he spearheads that project. We have another interested in promoting men’s health, so we have an entire campaign growing from her efforts.” Jae is extremely proud of the results.
In The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, author Ron Friedman reminds us that when work itself is rewarding, emphasis on external rewards actually reduces intrinsic motivation. And the greater the reward, the more damaging its impact.
Some well-meaning, yet misguided benefit (and even wellness) professionals somehow believe the same principles don’t apply to behavior change. The apparent thinking is that this year’s premium discount or cash is enough of an enticement to change poor habits that may have been etched in an employee’s lifestyle for years, even decades.
We’ve long argued that when you attempt to make behavior change an economic — do this, get that — transaction, you’re not only decreasing intrinsic motivation, but you’re robbing those you serve of autonomy in acting in their own best interest. According to Friedman… the value of autonomy is that it allows people to fully embrace their goals and see the investments they make as their own choice. It’s that feeling of personal ownership that inspires employees to be driven by their own interests, curiosity, and desires to succeed. If there’s anything in life that requires people to “fully embrace their goals,” it’s behavior change.
But that’s not all. In some instances, it appears organizations are going out of their way to decrease intrinsic motivation. Here then are our top 6 demotivators:
Wellness program managers can feel like the organization’s poor stepchild — last in line for table scraps and left to scrub the floors long after their more fortunate siblings are off to the party. It’s a condition of our own making in some instances. If we’re not working to influence higher-level decisions, we get what we deserve.
But how do you gain impact on the C-suite when proving ROI is next to impossible? Take a page from the Presidential candidate playbook: Communicate with conviction. Politicians make their careers by being certain of their position. You never hear someone on the debate stage say “I haven’t thought about that… let me mull it over and get back to you.” Whether we agree with their position or not, we like certainty.
Start with the position that you are the expert when it comes to worksite wellness. Yes, you want and need input across the organization, but you’re the one in charge of establishing a vision, creating consensus, and executing strategy. If you’re not prepared to accept that responsibility, you have little hope of getting what you want — and success can happen only by chance. Are you willing to take that risk? If not, here are some steps toward certainty, and ultimately influence: