Despite dramatic improvements in wellness platforms, employers are still facing challenges around implementation and engagement, making these investments far less effective than they have promised to be. While the platforms and other resources by themselves, are well-crafted, they don’t take into account two critical success factors:

  1. The need for humans to be guided and motivated by other humans. If an automated system could reach, engage, and change the behavior of every employee, we would not be facing rampant increases in key areas like obesity and diabetes.
  2. The need for programs to be planned and managed. As we know, “failing to plan is planning to fail”, and “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Therefore, one of the best strategies solutions to ensure success is to assign a dedicated, professional program manager whose responsibility and accountability are limited to the wellness program. Human Resource managers have been the go-to solution for this for decades and have proven less than effective in most cases. It’s not difficult to understand. Human resource managers are already overworked managing the core functions of the organization and, as we’ve seen over the past years, engagement and retention have become their frontlines pushing nearly everything out to second, third or last priority.

Expecting a human resource manager to devote the necessary energy and oversight to a wellness program is unreasonable and sets that manager up for failure. The regimen needed to reach more than just the healthy, engaged population can be daunting.

A Dedicated Program Management for Wellness

The answer, in most cases, is to outsource the program management. That doesn’t mean putting all the eggs in one basket, though. A qualified program manager for wellness is able to leverage all the investments made by the organization and coordinating them into a well-oiled machine that maximizes the impact and return on investment.

This becomes the program manager’s singular role for the organization. And, unlike a human resource manager, the program manager knows their performance will be measured upon the success of their program, how they engage employees, and how they report positive results. There is a strong motivation for success.

Adding a program manager to an existing platform-centric wellness program can result in an uptick in participation and true engagement. In EHG’s experience, the delta between a wellness platform alone and a wellness platform with program management can be as much as a 50% increase in participation.

Success Depends Upon Accountability  

The best program management for wellness depends on accountability that is measured against three key indictors: planning, metrics, and accountability. Most wellness programs start strong but lose energy as time moves on and other priorities take precedence.

Typically, it is the healthiest, most engaged among the employee population that participate regularly, but they are not the employees incurring avoidable and excessive healthcare costs through poor behavior and habits. Reaching those employees takes discipline that allows for a feedback loop to keep a program moving.

  1. Planning
    Program Managers work to develop a systematic approach, a communications plan, and overarching measurable goals. A strong program manager can take the load off HR by developing the communications that work with the culture and have a proven track record.

    Program Managers systematically create educational content that’s appropriate for the employees to make sure every eligible member knows about opportunities and is well-informed. These plans are usually pegged to corporate goals that can impact healthcare costs across the enterprise.
  2. Metrics
    It is imperative that success metrics are identified early so that the organization can understand what’s working and what’s not. Too often, when platforms are used alone, there is a moving of the goal posts that makes excuses for the program not adding up to the promise.

    Program managers, on the other hand, are beholden to the goals and able to pivot when metrics are not meeting expectations. While the program manager cannot solve for everything, they can serve as a very human voice-of-reason that helps guide the organization towards success. Reporting becomes the currency of the program manager’s success.
  3. Accountability
    When the human resource manager doesn’t meet organizational wellness goals, there is rarely a serious consequence. They have so many other roles and responsibilities that this is seen as an “area of growth.” The independent program manager, on the other hand, is absolutely on the hook for success.

    Should they fail at meeting the agreed upon goals, the program manager can be eliminated or replaced. While this may feel like a threat, it is a fair assessment of what the relationship really is. The program manager is here to meet the goals: increase the utilization of annual physicals, reduce diabetes, reduce smoking, increase adherence to medications, etc. However the organization has defined its goals, it is the program manager left holding the bag.

The best wellness program managers have been doing what they do for years, have seen many employee populations, and continue to bring the energy and enthusiasm needed to maintain momentum on a program that may have often been put aside by other priorities in the past. Establishing organizational goals sets the program manager up for success and allows them to do their job. If your organization is investing in a wellness platform or partnership, it would be wise to create or assign a dedicated program manager for wellness. The results can be dramatic.

If you’d like to learn more about EHG’s standalone program management, you can read more here or contact us to set up a one-to-one call and discuss your options.

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).

Engagement Health Group