Effective Communication Key to Successful Wellness Programs

Communication in wellness programs

Successful wellness programs are a win-win for both parties. For the employer, they increase retention, productivity, and employee satisfaction. A recent MetLife study showed that holistically healthy employees are:


    • 51% more likely to stay for at least a year.

    • 53% more likely to be productive, and

    • 74% more likely to be satisfied


The workplace wellness market has been growing steadily in recent years as employers recognize the benefits of investing in their employees’ health and well-being. Some of the benefits of workplace wellness programs include increased employee engagement and productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower healthcare costs.


According to Allied Market Research, the global workplace wellness market size was valued at $49.8 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $66.2 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate of 5.9% from 2020 to 2027.


Companies, governments, and institutions across the globe spend countless billions on incentive programs in hopes of motivating employees to do everything from working out at the gym to eating nutritious meals.


Yet, despite the brainpower devoted to devising creative rewards and fine-tuning offerings, employees don’t always buy in.


The reason might be as simple as employees not knowing about the incentive programs. Leslie John, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and a team of researchers found that a major factor holding back wellness incentive programs may be a lack of effective advertising.


“All this money and time and smart people thinking about programs is all for naught if we don’t effectively communicate them,” John says.


According to John, you don’t have to look hard to find examples of thoughtfully designed incentives that failed to move the needle. Companies lay out funds on wellness programs each year, underwriting gym memberships and offering other perks, yet analyses find only a third or so of employees at US companies take advantage of these programs.


John and her fellow researchers proposed that the problem may not be the incentives themselves, but how they are presented. Failing to promote incentives effectively could lead to fewer people taking advantage of them.


“We have to make [an incentive] really salient to employees so they actually use it,” John says.


This combination of incentives with a low-touch outreach campaign could potentially be used to target any number of issues, from helping people quit smoking, to eating healthier, to exercising regularly, John says.


She suggests companies take these three steps to rethink incentives:


Try incentives through a pilot program first. Start with a smaller group of participants and, once that is successful, branch out. Executives should think carefully about what issues or behaviors they want to encourage and whether there is enough interest on the part of employees to get the necessary buy-in.


Promote incentives effectively. While this could mean sending out an email or text every other day, it could also involve something as simple as hanging a sign along with the text that you want to be sure employees see in bold type or highlighted.


“If people feel like you are trying to manipulate them, they may well do the opposite,” John says, adding that sending employees two emails a day, for example, would be overkill. “You don’t want to go overboard. You don’t want to be spamming people.”


Keep reviewing the incentives you offer. Consider offering a variety of rewards tailored to a participant’s personal interests, making for a meaningful experience.


With all the money that’s spent on wellness programs, there are still two fundamental problems that cause them to underperform. First, they are not branded or appropriately marketed. Secondly, A cash reward or some other form, such as gift cards, while widely used, is soon forgotten and not an effective long-term motivator.



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. When these programs succeed, everybody wins.



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



Brian Galonek


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