You can ensure you have an effective employee wellness program through careful planning and data tracking. As every manager knows (or should know) data collection is critical to gauging the success of an initiative.
When it comes to collecting and analyzing data on the success of your employee wellness program, however, things get tricky. Privacy and discrimination concerns make it challenging to collect certain information from employees. It can also create a very toxic and unhealthy workplace to collect certain information, such as employee weight for a weight loss challenge (which I never recommend doing to begin with).
So how can you measure the success of your program?
Determining What Metrics to Use
Before you start data collecting, you must get clear on the goals of your program and which metrics measure progress towards those goals. This means you need to have a good understanding of your workforce – their pain points, what they need support with. You also must understand your overall organizational goals – cost savings, employee retention, productivity, etc. To be effective, your program must be structured around those targets on both the employer and employee sides. From there the question is which data will indicate progress towards those targets.
As an example, say you want to implement an effective employee wellness program focused on stress management to decrease employee burnout. We know that symptoms of burnout include decreased productivity, increased interpersonal conflict, absenteeism, and presenteeism. Knowing that, after several months of the program, you could check your production numbers and check in with your HR department to see what their data looks like for absences, employee conflicts, etc.
Of note, when it comes to wellness programs, many of the measures are less tangible. For example, employee morale could be an indicator of the success of a program but it’s difficult to measure. I recommend taking these less tangible measures into account; but keep in mind that your perception of them may be influenced by outside factors.
It is always a good idea to consult with legal counsel whenever it’s possible that data collection could breach privacy.
Once you select your metrics, you must establish realistic goals and establish a schedule to assess those metrics.
From here, the question is, how to collect the data you need.
How to Collect Your Data
One way is to just allow your employees to track their own progress. This means they also have to set their own goals as well. It is great if the company offers a way for employees to track, but technological solutions often entail privacy concerns. In that case, offering something such as my Empowered Eating Journal to employees could be a simple solution. This journal allows users to set goals, track their daily habits and progress, and continually reassess and re-strategize. I would consider this a hands-off approach.
Another way to track is to look for trends in your company’s health insurance costs. I would consider this a lagging indicator, however, so you will want to review it over the course of a longer span of time. It’s also not necessarily reflective of actual changes employees have made. But if one of the goals of your program is to decrease those costs, then this is definitely a metric to look at.
A third way to assess the success of your wellness program is to poll your employees. I strongly recommend keeping responses anonymous and avoid asking for specifics. (Again, consult with the proper counsel for privacy concerns). This could look like polls conducted at the close of each session to gauge interest, usefulness, etc. This could also be a quarterly poll assessing whether the program has been impactful thus far. Or it could be just a once a year assessment.
Ideally, you can work collaboratively with your provider to determine program goals, metrics, data collection, and assessment strategies.
Is this approach for everyone?
Creating a structured program around your goals which allows employees to set their own goals can be more effective than piecemeal style programs. However, that is not to say that there is no benefit to be derived from these more freestyle programs – they absolutely can offer some benefits to employees. In fact, if you have a wide range of employee needs, a more varied program may offer benefits to more employees than a narrowly targeted and structured program. However, if you have specific organizational goals for your program, then it’s worth dedicating the time for structuring and assessing.