Create an Inclusive Culture for a Successful Wellness Program

Last month, we published a blog devoted to building a successful employee wellness program and about a Harvard Business School finding that a major factor holding back wellness incentive programs may be simply a lack of effective communication.


Lack of inclusion is another key factor that can limit a wellness program’s participation and overall success.


Laura Putnam is the founder and CEO of Motion Infusion. She is also the author of “Wellness that Works,” a book that shares a fresh perspective on workplace wellness.


Putnam writes about the fundamental problem that has plagued corporate wellness programs for ages and has contributed to their failure. When employers treat all employees the same and provide them with the same set of wellness offerings, the programs will yield sub-par outcomes.


“We have not paid enough attention to those external factors that relate to the world of DE&I, things like gender, race, age, and religion, that really shape our capacity as individuals to be able to make healthy choices,” Putnam says. “What wellness looks to each of us is different; so everyone gets to choose what their best self looks like for them”


Putnam describes this barrier as “wellness privilege,” where employers presume that employees already have more than the bare minimum social or other determinants of health. Blanket wellness advice such as spending more time close to nature to factor out the different access employees have to these health determinants.


According to Putnam, employees may be at more risk of chronic disease because of where they live, their level of education, working life conditions, childhood development, or the presence of social inclusion or discrimination. These social determinants of health, or “currents” as Putnam calls them, influence our health risks significantly, and without factoring these into the wellness program design, employers are literally wasting their time.


Putnam suggests that the first step to incorporating inclusion into wellness is starting from the top. It would be ridiculous, she writes, to want to drive inclusivity in wellness programs when your corporate culture does not reflect inclusivity. Putting up that facade will disengage employees further.


Inclusive wellness, Putnam summarizes, takes a lot of work. It is beyond involving people of different races, religions, or sexual orientations; it is more about providing an environment that accommodates their differences and building a culture that supports each of them. Without rethinking this fundamental framework, employers may find it difficult to create inclusion in wellness or drive the desired level of employee engagement with wellness programs.


Employers must also take into consideration the types of incentives to reward participants along their journey to better health, with inclusivity at the forefront. My advice has always been to keep reviewing the incentives you offer and consider offering a variety of rewards tailored to a participant’s personal interests, making for a meaningful experience.


At All Star Incentive Marketing, we believe a corporate wellness program with strong incentives can go a long way towards supporting your employees in adopting new habits and managing their health. 


It’s been our experience that employee wellness programs, as well as other incentive programs, are four times more effective when paired with a variety of tangible and experiential awards. Unfortunately, at many companies, wellness programs are not incentivized, or worse, rewards consisting of cash or gift cards are ineffective as motivators in promoting long-term changes in health-related behaviors. 


By offering incremental and memorable incentives, participants stay focused and adopt healthy habits – to their benefit as well as their employer. 


We’ll work with you to set goals and develop an inclusive strategy to promote wellness throughout your organization— from healthy eating, weight loss, and physical fitness to smoking cessation programs and disease management.


In economic terms, the multiplier effect refers to the proportional increase or decrease in final income that results from an injection or withdrawal of capital. In terms of Safety Reward Programs, the multiplier effect might refer to the ROI² (Return on Incentive Investment). A properly structured program significantly impacts overall employee engagement and safety culture, where employees are attuned to safety-related issues, inspired to display “Above & Beyond” safe behaviors, willing to be safety ambassadors, and encouraged to promote learning and support continuous improvement. Such best-in-class programs are designed to promote group objectives and reward individual behavior, engaging, motivating, and rewarding the people behind your success.

Fortunately, there are thousands of companies in high-risk industries that have excellent safety programming, training, and coaching in place. Many include safety in their list of core values and have invested heavily in EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety) technology, training, telematics, and personnel. However, too many miss the opportunity to incentivize and recognize individual safety contributions, behaviors, and performance.

Programs featuring tangible and experiential awards as the reward currency can have a multiplying effect that pays dividends. Benefits include a more highly engaged workforce, fewer accidents and incidents, reduced claims and losses, lower turnover and absenteeism, better communication, increased productivity, visibility to leading and lagging indicators, incremental coaching and training opportunities, and improved profitability.

So, what’s the rub? Are engagement programs focused on employee safety, health, and wellness expensive to implement? Do they only make sense for companies with thousands of safety-sensitive workers? The answer to both questions is no. Properly structured programs can be cost-effective and right-sized for companies with as few as 100 safety-sensitive workers up to those with 10,000 or more. The ROI² of these programs can be expressed as a ratio (in this case, 4:1), with quantitative results showing a savings of $4.00 for every $1.00 invested and qualitative results revealing higher employee morale, which serves as a catalyst for productivity. Safety Reward Programs help to mitigate risk, elevate employee engagement, and improve overall safety culture. They also present an excellent opportunity for companies to simply say thank you to their employees for being safe, committed, and engaged.

People have an inherent need to know that their efforts do not go unnoticed. Safety Reward Programs provide the stimulus and energy that encourage employees to perform at their best and achieve new heights.

Brian Galonek


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