7 Strategies for Motivating Employees With Your Wellness Program

Strategies for Motivating Employees With Your Wellness Program

Motivation. We all want more of it, but few of us can seem to find enough of it. And when we do find that burst of enthusiasm, how often do we use it to improve our health and well-being?

Odds are, you’re not the only one having trouble putting yourself first and taking steps to improve your health; your employees are, too. But imagine what could happen if you could change that—if you could boost motivation among your entire staff, energizing them to take action toward improving their well-being?

It wouldn’t just mean fewer health-related costs and sick days for them—it would also mean more productive employees, reduced turnover, and reduced presenteeism for you.

So how do you encourage employees to develop the healthy habits that will last a lifetime? Consider adding these seven motivational approaches to your wellness program strategies.

1. Engage Employees in Planning

If most of your employees are just getting started on their fitness journey, booking a “How to Train for the Ironman” educational session will probably go over like a lead balloon.

No matter how engaging the speaker is or how interesting the topic is, if it’s not something your employees are interested in, they won’t be motivated by it. In fact, it could even have a discouraging effect.

So how do you learn what employees want to know more about? You could start by conducting quarterly surveys that gauge interest on a list of wellness topics, while also encouraging employees to suggest topics they’d like to see covered. You could also look at engagement in past topics—like cooking demonstrations or in-house Zumba classes—and repeat (or spin off of) those with high participation levels.

2. Choose the Right Rewards      

Just as all employees aren’t interested in the same things—not all employees are motivated by the same things. There are, however, two categories that every motivator falls in to:

  • Intrinsic motivators come from within—like pride in a job well-done or the satisfaction that comes from making a difference within the community or an organization.
  • Extrinsic motivators are more traditional rewards—like raises and promotions.

Extrinsic motivators—like cash prizes, gift cards, and discounted healthcare premiums—can be a great way to jumpstart employees’ initial participation in wellness programs. But it’s just as important for employees to be proud of themselves for their accomplishments and use that pride as a stepping stone for future successes. Similarly, managers can use praise to recognize and celebrate when employees accomplish wellness goals—or simply put in a noteworthy amount of effort—to keep motivation high and encourage future efforts.

3. Spread Out the Rewards

To help create a lasting pattern of healthy behaviors, avoid offering incentives only at the beginning or end of a wellness challenge. For example, if you give Fitbits to employees at the start of a walking challenge, but nothing at completion, there’s little incentive for the employee to see the challenge all the way through. Likewise, if you require employees attend a year’s worth of lunch-and-learns to earn a reward, employees may find the goal too unattainable.

Instead, think of wellness program incentives like watering a garden: A regular flow of the good stuff will give the best results. Providing small rewards along the way (with a bigger reward shimmering in the distance) will stave off frustration and keep people striving for that next milestone.

4. Help Employees Understand the Program

If employees are left on their own to try to figure out how their corporate wellness program works and the benefits of participation, they’re probably going to be significantly less motivated to participate. Increase motivation by holding welcome sessions that explain step-by-step what the program is designed to do and how employees can maximize its value. By showing employees how to set concrete, attainable goals and access program resources, you can increase the likelihood staff will participate in and stick with the program.

Regular communication also boosts motivation, helping employees understand the program and what they can get out of participating.  Make sure to look beyond email—consider using the company intranet, a wellness program Slack channel, text messages, and posters to get the messages across.

5. Make It a Joint Effort

Peer pressure is often thought of as a bad thing—but when it comes to motivating employees, co-workers can use their power of influence for good. It’s often easier to achieve goals and stick with programs as part of a group rather than on your own, so encourage employees to work toward health and wellness goals as part of a bigger group. Not only is it more motivating for the employee when others are encouraging them, but knowing that they’re part of something bigger than themselves also increases the likelihood that they’ll stay engaged.

6. Make It Accessible

If employees can’t participate in wellness program activities—they’re unable to leave their desks to attend lunch-and-learns or health limitations prevent them from engaging in physical challenges—their motivation to participate in the program is likely to plummet. Instead, schedule multiple sessions at different times so all employees can attend guest speakers’ presentations, and give employees a variety of ways to earn insurance premium discounts or program rewards.

7. Start With Management

When employees see their managers taking stretch breaks, not answering emails on the weekends, and scheduling team meetings around wellness program lunch-and-learns, those employees are more likely to take time for themselves and become more active participants in their wellness. Creating a culture of wellness is powerful—and is an attainable goal for any company.

Improving health and wellness isn’t one-size-fits-all—so your corporate wellness program shouldn’t be, either. Part of a well-executed customized wellness program is understanding what motivates, engages, and inspires employees (and management) and then integrating that into every aspect of your program. In the end, not only will it motivate employees to participate—it will also encourage them to succeed. And that results in happier, healthier employees that are committed to doing their best work for you.

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