Is Company Culture Holding Back Your Wellness Program?

Every year, companies spend millions of dollars on corporate wellness programs in an effort to drive down employee health care costs and increase employee health and productivity. Employers with between 5,000 and 20,000 employees spend $661 on average per worker, up from $493 in 2014. Before spending that money though, employers should look at a key predictor of program success — corporate culture.

A fundamental truth

A commentary in Employee Benefit News (EBN) points out a fundamental truth: A company can have a strong culture without a wellness program, but can’t have a great wellness program without a strong culture. So companies should address their culture before embarking on a wellness initiative.

Dr. Laura Hamill, an organizational psychologist and chief people officer with Limeade, offers eight ways to gauge if your corporate culture needs retuning.

1. Too many meetings to prep for meetings

Says Hamill, “The message gets so spun, so tightened up, that there really isn’t the ability to be open, to tell the truth, and to talk about things in real-time.”

2. Taking it offline

When this occurs it may indicate that important discussions are being had without a team being able to participate in the conversation.

3. Hierarchy always wins

If everyone always agrees with the highest-level person in the room, employees may not be comfortable about voicing their opinions.

4. Lack of leadership humility

Arrogance from the top can signal a toxic culture. Such an attitude may lead to close-mindedness or missed opportunities to admit and learn from mistakes.

5. Sugarcoating bad news

No one wants to hear—or deliver—bad news. But how a company handles those challenges has a big influence on the workplace culture. Employers that are upfront about bad news and solicit feedback for dealing with challenges usually have much healthier cultures than those that look to rationalize bad news or place blame elsewhere.

6. Post-meeting politics

“If real meetings happen after the official meetings, that’s a red flag,” says Hamill. If what’s agreed to in the room isn’t what really happens outside the room, morale can be affected.

7. The latest thing

Companies that focus too much on the next big thing—whatever strategies or opinions are currently in vogue—rather than their core competencies and values put their culture at risk. Reacting to the latest management book, for instance, can cause cultural whiplash.

8. No fun

If employees don’t want to participate in a company activity that may indicate that the company has no clue about team building or what their workers enjoy.


3 signs you’re missing the mark

Even if you have a strong corporate culture, a well-intended wellness program may still veer off target. EBN notes three telltale signs that a wellness program is not hitting the mark.

1. The illness du jour

A program may be designed to follow current health awareness trends, such as Heart Health Month, Depression Awareness Week, or Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, unless these events are aligned with your employees’ interests and priorities, the messages may fall on deaf ears.

2. Ho-hum rollout response

Your wellness website looks great. Your program design is engaging. Your participation incentive is generous. But your employee response is ho-hum. What went wrong? Most likely, the program isn’t addressing employee priorities, particularly in the area of incentives. Free tickets to a sporting event may not appeal to everyone. However, chances are a half-day off for successfully completing a health assessment would.

3. Fuzzy metrics

Companies are right to want to measure a wellness program’s effectiveness. But to get a clear picture requires a goal that is easily measurable. An uptick in employee morale is an admirable goal but subjective. Whereas achieving a 60 percent participation rate in health assessment completion is a clear metric.


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