The “on-demand” or “ask-an-expert” mode of coaching used by most of the wellness industry is designed to help those who are already engaged in health improvement – which is the exception, not the rule. While this solution model has a place in the wellness continuum, it lacks the permanence and influence that a consistent coaching relationship can offer. Therefore, this style coaching is reactive and ineffective at instilling healthy lifestyles.

Individuals are prone to habit and sliding backwards, and without a strong hand helping and leading them, these individuals rarely make substantive life changes. For the employer looking to build a lasting culture of wellness, on-demand coaching may not deliver the same results that a consistent health coach can. Coaches form a meaningful, trust-based relationship that allows them to guide employees towards better choices that help lower their health risks in a way that feels comfortable and rewarding.

Moving Towards Behavioral Health Coaching

Behavioral Health Coaching offers a more likely path in changing the overall employee population, moving employees lower down the risk spectrum and helping them to maintain that position. Behavioral health coaching is an empathetic, proactive approach builds consistent, trusted relationships with virtually every employee in systematic health improvement, including those who have resisted for years. Effective behavioral coaching must offer:

  1. Engagement – Through good leadership, effective communications, and meaningful incentives, health coaches can engage not only the minority who are already taking responsibility for their health – but the vast majority of those who have not!
  2. Assessment – Conducting of initial assessments of physical and mental health to establish a baseline and identify areas for improvement.
  3. Motivational Interviewing – This is the key to identifying and tapping into each person’s purpose, to develop the connection and motivation for working on health to help them self-actualize in a way that can last.
  4. Readiness, Importance, & Confidence – Health coaches also assess these critically important factors with each participant to decide which health factor to address.
  5. SMART Goals – To increase the odds of success, Health Coaches facilitate goals with each participant that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, & Time-Bound. Then they build appropriate Action Plans for achieving each goal.
  6. Follow-Up – Consistent follow-up throughout the year with a consistent, trusted coach helps to hold participants accountable, troubleshoot problems that have arisen, educate as needed, refer to appropriate health resources, and keep them fully motivated and engaged.

Over time, coaching can change the core behaviors that lead to poor health and higher risk, offering employees healthier, happier lives that they can then sustain on their own. The lasting effects are in stark contrast to that of on-demand coaching, which rarely delivers long-term effects as it is designed to solve an acute issue rather than the underlying cause.

Behavioral Health Coaching Can Provide Needed Mental Health Support

There was a crisis with stress and mental health among employees before the COVID pandemic, and it has gotten much worse. By tapping into each participant’s purpose and motivation with ongoing motivational interviewing, Health Coaches help participants build their resilience. In addition, EHG Health Coaches are trained and certified in Mental Health First Aid to recognize potential mental health issues that are causing excessive stress or anxiety. A Health Coach often can help deal with issues before there’s a need for clinical help, or they escalate the employee to the organization’s EAP with a warm hand-off, enhancing appropriate utilization dramatically. In these situations, the coach is also on-hand to ensure the employee applies the EAP and continues to make progress.

Behavioral Health Coaching Can Drive Recruitment, Retention, and Engagement

WELCOA just surveyed employers and found that 97.2% said that wellbeing and support will be critical when it comes to attracting and retaining talent going forward. In a recent EHG participant satisfaction survey, EHG clients said, “Health coaching is the best benefit the company has ever provided.” The reason is that employees are up to 350% more likely to adopt healthier habits such with the help of a health coach.

For example, during the pandemic, many employees coped with excessive stress by binging TV, eating comfort food, smoking, or worse. A Health Coach might instead help employees cope using enhanced nutrition, exercise, gratitude, and/or mindfulness.

At a time where employees are feeling more disconnected from organizations, concerned about stability, and experiencing heightened anxiety at home, a trusted Health Coach often becomes a stabilizing factor. For those organizations looking to deepen their employee engagement, the Health Coach becomes a surrogate for the organization, offering another connection point and relieving stress from overworked and overtasked supervisors and managers.

Behavioral Health Coaching is an Investment – Not a Cost

Behavioral change offers long-term solutions that can impact overall employee satisfaction and performance. Though it may appear as a higher cost, the benefit often dramatically outweighs the spend in terms of retention and satisfaction among the entire population. Self-serve wellness programs typically engage 30-40% of the population, which is predominantly the healthier employees who are interested in taking responsibility for their health. But when systematic behavioral health coaching is included, it is possible to achieve an average of 90% engagement.

How does the quantity of coaching compare?

Many wellness programs don’t include coaching or offer it on a voluntary basis. Applying the systematic and consistent coaching that EHG uses, behavioral coaching can reach those employees who need coaching the most and present the highest risk to the employee population.

Below is an example showing almost 20X more coaching using EHG’s approach to Behavioral Health Coaching:

EHG’s clients that use our recommended behavioral health coaching protocol repeatedly achieve the following results:

  • Over 85% of employees engage – from biometric screening through the coaching series
  • Over 85% are satisfied with the program and believe it’s making them healthier
  • A reversal in the naturally increasing trend of health risks as the population ages
  • Participants report the onsite, personal health coaching makes it a better place to work
  • Client retention in the mid-90% range (so they buy into the value)

Final Thoughts on Behavioral Health Coaching

As employers move further in the post-pandemic culture, the need for deep engagement becomes greater while the concern over health and wellness is also rising. Adopting behavioral health coaching can be a 2-for-1 solution, offering a highly sticky benefit that also drives down medical costs.

While behavioral coaching does cost more than the self-serve model, the promise of healthier employees with higher retention is becoming more and more attractive to those organizations struggling to differentiate and solidify their position in a highly competitive work environment.

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