Part 1 of this blog addressed the question, “are corporate wellness programs effective?” The assumption is that workplace wellness programs are supposed to stop or reverse the natural increase in employee health risks as they age. But the fact is – most programs are not even measuring results, much less achieving them. And while some are, that percentage is projected to be less than 7%. This is because most corporate wellness programs do not contain all of the critical components necessary to support a system that works.

Corporate Wellness Programs – What Does Work?  

Employee health is a huge problem that has been decades in the making, so it will not be turned around overnight with a token corporate wellness program. The key to success starts well upstream of having a great worksite wellness plan with effective execution. It starts with having caring and proactive leadership or stewardship.

Good Stewardship

At the most basic level, a successful corporate wellness program requires organizational leadership that has the following characteristics:

1.     An understanding that employees are an organization’s most important asset.

2.     A realization that employee health is the most important asset of the organization’s most important asset (just ask any employee who has lost their health and quality of life).

3.     A commitment to do something to improve it – which is superior stewardship towards employees.

Two Great Examples of CEO Stewardship

“If all an employee gets from working here is a paycheck, then I haven’t done my job. Improving their health is one of the most important things I can do for employees.”


“I’ve seen numerous preventable deaths of fellow employees as I climbed  the ladder here. Now that I am CEO, I don’t want any more of that on my watch”


Effective Corporate Wellness Programs Go Beyond Concern

Having genuine concern about employee health is essential for success, but it is not enough. Many leaders express this concern to their employees by providing them with good, affordable health insurance. However, by the time these employees need these health plans, they have already been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, or other lifelong diseases – hurting their quality of life, their productivity, and their pocketbooks. Some will be forced to stop working sooner than they intended, which will impede their plans for their future. As a result, genuine concern about employee health is not enough. Chronic diseases require prevention –  and senior leaders are in the best position to prevent them! 

The Good Steward Case for Worksite Wellness

·      Waiting until employees are chronically sick and disabled to help them with their health is reactive and short-sighted.

·      At that point in the diagnosis, the costs are out of control and the long-term damage is done.

·      Chronically sick and disabled employees are more likely to be hospitalized –  hospitalization is one of the leading causes of death!

·      Senior leaders can be good stewards by funding and leading an effective corporate wellness program that enhance the well-being of employees and their families for a lifetime!

·      In fact, CEOs are in a position to make a larger impact on the lasting health and well-being of their employees than physicians and nurses. That’s good stewardship!

Sufficient Investments in Employee Health

Too many leaders think that a token investment and worksite wellness should curb their healthcare cost trend. Again, since employee health is a huge problem that has been decades in the making, it will not be turned around overnight with a token corporate wellness program. See the following math and round numbers:

·      Assuming employee health insurance costs 10,000 pepy (per employee per year)

·      Assume the healthcare cost trend is increasing 10% or $1000 pepy

·      If you want a $50 pepy corporate wellness program to flatten the trend, you’d need to find a program that earns $1000/50 = 20:1 ROI! That’s virtually impossible.

·      Likewise, you’d need 10:1 ROI for a $100 pepy program. It’s not likely.

·      Assume that 2:1 ROI after 3 years is reasonable for an effective corporate wellness program.

·      To flatten the trend, you would need $1000 pepy/2:1 = $500 pepy investment.

Comprehensive and Systematic Corporate Wellness Programs

Another common misconception is that individual incentive programs, challenge platforms, or worksite wellness portals will achieve the desired results. It’s not going to happen. There are no silver bullets. The only corporate wellness programs and peer-reviewed studies that have achieved great results with sustainable 2:1 ROI have been comprehensive and systematic.

For those who are ready to dig into what is meant by “comprehensive and systematic”, there are several well-respected non-profit organizations that have addressed these parameters. All have studied the most successful corporate wellness programs, found the common threads, and developed the best practices that have been shared freely, often complete with scorecards. ALL of these workplace wellness programs have achieved great results that are comprehensive and systematic!

The two organizations that I am personally close to are WELCOA (The Wellness Council of America) and HERO (The Health Enhancement Research Organization). Both are well-respected organizations that have executed thorough analysis by industry experts to determine best practices, and both have built free online scorecards for employers. Many of the HERO Think Tank members are larger employers and the consultants, health plans, and suppliers that support them – so the HERO best practice scorecard is excellent for that audience. HERO examined WELCOA and other best practices (credited on the website) as its scorecard was developed. Organizations that are smaller and/or have immature corporate wellness programs may find the HERO scorecard a bit overwhelming. As a result, the WELCOA Well Workplace Checklist may be more suitable. The WELCOA square card even has seven categories with numerous points on each one.

The bottom line is the examination of these scorecards reveal the type of comprehensive, systematic corporate wellness programs it takes to achieve optimal, sustainable results. The trump card is leadership that integrates employee health, wellness, and safety into the organizational culture.

Proven Experience with Managing Corporate Wellness Programs

It’s not unreasonable to think that HR managers who are not experienced in worksite wellness could design and manage a comprehensive, systematic corporate wellness program that can achieve 2:1 ROI in their spare time – especially if they are not ready to drop unhealthy habits themselves!

So, although worksite wellness is not rocket science, the design, implementation, and management of an effective corporate wellness program with many moving parts is hard work that requires expert skills. If you don’t have the expertise within your organization, it’s probably wise to hire a corporate health partner with the proven expertise to manage it.


The key is connecting the dots for senior leadership, since they set the strategic priorities, establish the organizational values, approve the budget, and facilitate corporate culture. There is a wonderful case for worksite wellness, but most senior leaders either haven’t heard it, don’t believe it, or just don’t prioritize it.

With superior health coaching that prioritizes employee health and delivers measurable and sustainable results, Engagement Health Group is transforming the worksite wellness landscape with effective corporate wellness programs that are built to succeed.

Contact us today to learn more about we can become your trusted corporate health partner.

About the author

Jack Curtis

Jack Curtis is Founder and CEO of Corporate Health Partners (2002) and Co-Founder and CEO of Engagement Health Group (2022). With an ongoing commitment to making a difference in corporate health and well-being, Jack enjoys his long-term membership and Leadership Committee chair position at an industry Think Tank of thought leaders within employee health management, called Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO).

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