Benefits Strategy

Seven Tips for Maximizing Your Clients’ Wellness Programs ROI

Written by Nikki

You play a crucial role as a broker in guiding your clients towards maximizing the ROI (Return On Investment) on their wellness initiatives. Since these programs not only contribute to the health and well-being of their workforce, but also offer significant ROI when successful, it’s important that you recognize the variables that affect them. By understanding the factors that influence ROI on wellness programs and implementing strategic approaches, you can help your clients achieve tangible benefits while promoting a healthy culture within their organizations.

calculating wellness program roi

Why Certain Wellness Programs Fail

52% of US employers offer employee wellness programs. However, for most of these programs, less than 50% of employees participate. If employees aren’t engaging, then the program’s potential is lost. If your client is seeing low engagement on their corporate wellness program, you should first consider that the following issues may be causing them to struggle to encourage participation:

  1. Misaligned program structure
  2. It’s difficult to participate
  3. Poor communication
  4. Lack of compelling incentives
  5. Disconnection from company culture

1. Misaligned Program Structure

Most wellness programs fail when they are not tailored to the specific needs of the workforce. Employee well-being is not a monolith. Every company has employees with diverse physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial needs.

In turn, a generic program that doesn’t consider factors like employee demographics, job types, and personal preferences will struggle to gain participation. For example, a program focusing solely on physical fitness might miss the mark for a workforce struggling with mental health challenges.

2. It’s Difficult to Participate

A cumbersome employee wellness program—requiring too much time, too many steps, or inconvenient scheduling—is off-putting. An accessible and user-friendly program will boost employee engagement.

3. Poor Communication

A lack of clear, consistent communication about the wellness program hinders its success. The same goes for complicated communication. If the program’s instructions are confusing, employees cannot engage with it. When it comes to corporate wellness, effective communication should highlight the benefits, how to participate, and why the program matters. It should also allow for employee feedback.

4. Lack of Compelling Incentives

Employers offering wellness incentives of $100+ report high (51%) participation rates. However, incentives alone will not solve low participation.

While they may stoke enthusiasm in the initial stages, incentives are simply extrinsic motivators with limited power in the long run. If employees moderate their behavior because of a reward or fear of punishment, they are likely to revert back to their old lifestyle when the reward is exhausted.

The real power lies in encouraging both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Simply put, incentives are more effective when employers shift their focus from merely encouraging participation to tapping into the employee’s holistic well-being.

5. Disconnection from Company Culture

Company culture plays a crucial role in the uptake of any wellness initiative. If a wellness program feels like an add-on to placate them, employees will view it skeptically and be less inclined to participate. But if the company already has a culture of wellness, the program will feel like an integral part of the company’s ethos and more employees will embrace it.

Learning From Our Client, Goodfellow Bros Inc.

Goodfellow Bros. Inc., in collaboration with IncentFit, developed a comprehensive wellness initiative aimed at promoting employee activity and well-being. This family-owned construction company has introduced a range of programs, including incentives for walking and biking, partial reimbursement for gym memberships, hydration challenges, and more.

Their corporate wellness program has shown impressive results: a 68% participation rate, 18% financial utilization rate, and a cumulative 130,000 miles walked. These efforts have contributed significantly to reducing sick days and workplace injuries related to fatigue or strain.

Learn more about Goodfellow Bros. Inc ROI from using IncentFit technology here.

The Metrics That Matter for Workplace Wellness Programs

Any wellness program ROI calculation is a multi-pronged activity that requires a blend of data analysis and human insight. For a successful calculation, you will need to go beyond numbers and look at the stories behind them. Here are some way of capturing qualitative and quantitative data that you’ll want to periodically review with your clients:

  • Employee Health Outcomes: Measure changes in employee health status through biometric screenings and health risk assessments. Improvement in key health indicators like blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels could be a positive sign that a program is succeeding.
  • Participation Rates: Track how many employees are actively participating in the program. High participation rates could mean a well-received program that leads to a more engaged and productive workforce.
  • Employee Productivity and Performance: Monitor changes in productivity and performance metrics. This can include fewer sick days, higher energy levels, stress reduction, and improved concentration, all of which contribute to better work outcomes.
  • Employee Engagement and Satisfaction: Use surveys to measure how the wellness program affects overall employee morale, job satisfaction, workplace culture, and mental health. Engaged employees are often more productive and committed to the company.
  • Retention and Turnover Rates: Analyze staff turnover and employee retention rates before and after the implementation of the program. A decrease in turnover could mean the employees value the wellness initiatives, which can reduce the costs associated with hiring and training new staff.
  • Insurance Claims and Usage: Review changes in insurance claims and usage. While the impact on healthcare costs may be long-term, any significant changes can be a direct indicator of the program’s effectiveness.

Tips for Maximizing Your Workplace Wellness Program ROI

Companies looking to maximize their workplace wellness program return on investment should:

  1. Tailor programs to employee needs
  2. Set clear and achievable goals
  3. Promote leadership involvement
  4. Leverage technology for engagement
  5. Offer incentives and rewards
  6. Communicate the value and success
  7. Evaluate and adjust regularly

1. Tailor Programs to Employee Needs

The success of any employee wellness program hinges on one factor: understanding each employee’s unique health goals and challenges. You can help your clients to kickstart their customization journey with purpose-driven surveys.

  • What are the employee’s personal preferences?
  • How do their wellness goals fit into their daily routines?
  • What’s the employee’s emotional relationship with wellness like?

2. Set Clear and Achievable Goals

Clear and measurable goals are your coordinates toward maximizing your clients’ wellness program’s ROI. Adopt the SMART criteria — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound — to frame your clients’ wellness objectives.

For example, don’t simply suggest that your client should aim to improve employees’ mental health. Instead, propose that they strive to reduce employee stress levels by 20% within a year. SMART goals give you a framework for action and evaluation.

3. Promote Leadership Involvement

The success or failure of a wellness program has a lot to do with the leaders’ buy-in and participation. When executives roll up their sleeves and join the wellness bandwagon, they don’t just send a message — they become the message.

This then cultivates a life-long culture where employee well-being isn’t an afterthought but a pillar. Even if the leaders eventually leave, the culture will be self-sustaining, guaranteeing a positive ROI as the wellness program evolves.

4. Leverage Technology for Engagement

Introduce employees to apps that not only track their steps and dietary habits, but also provide personalized feedback and encouragement.

Employers can introduce gamification into their wellness program. They should consider integrating leaderboards, unlockable levels, and reward points into their wellness platform to ignite friendly competition. 

Tech can also be used to forge communities on wellness apps and platforms. Encourage employees to share their milestones, cheer each other on, and even engage in group challenges. This sense of community will sustain engagement over the long haul, transforming solitary activities into shared experiences.

5. Offer Incentives and Rewards

Even though wellness programs are about an employee’s behavior change, incentives are powerful catalysts for participation and engagement.

You should begin by identifying what motivates your clients’ employees. Is it an extra day off, a gym subscription, or maybe a health insurance premium discount? Whatever it is, help tailor their rewards to suit these preferences, ensuring they’re both meaningful and desirable.

Lastly, keep the incentives fresh and exciting. Regularly review the program with your clients and refresh it to align with changing interests and seasons. A dynamic rewards program keeps the novelty alive and prevents engagement from stagnating.

6. Communicate the Value and Success

Success stories from a wellness program are not mere footnotes—they are headline-worthy testimonials that can inspire an entire organization. Google knows that: the tech giant is deemed one of the best employers thanks to their comprehensive employee wellness program.

Their program doesn’t inspire just because of the numbers; the employees’ journeys, milestones, and transformations matter. Any employer can do that regardless of the company size.

Complement the anecdotes with data. Provide statistics on participation rates, health improvements, or reductions in sick leave. Use visuals where possible to depict the collective health improvements or a “before and after.” This data serves as concrete evidence of the program’s ROI, reinforcing the value to both participants and decision-makers.

communicate program success

7. Evaluate and Adjust Regularly

Continuous evaluation and adjustment are the lifeblood of an evolving wellness program. You’ll want to be proactive in your strategy to keep your clients’ wellness programs adaptable and attractive to their employees. This requires several steps:

  • Building a feedback loop – Encourage honest feedback through regular wellness surveys, suggestion boxes, and open forums. Make it clear that every piece of feedback is a golden opportunity for growth, and ensure anonymity to promote candor.
  • Using data to inform decisions – Regularly delve into participation metrics, health outcome measurements, and program cost-effectiveness. Look beyond the surface and analyze trends over time. Is the needle moving in the right direction? Are there unexpected benefits or challenges cropping up?
  • Embracing agility and flexibility – Use the insights from data and feedback to make informed adjustments. This may mean introducing new activities, tweaking existing ones, or phasing out elements that no longer serve your goals.
  • Involving Employees – Ensure every adjustment is a collaborative effort. Involve employees in the refinement process, making them active participants in the program’s future.

Final Thoughts

Ensuring the success of a wellness program is not easy. There are many pitfalls that can reduce wellness program ROI and effectiveness, including misalignment, poor communication, cumbersome administration, and lack of additional incentives. However, you can empower your clients to realize the full potential of their wellness investments. 

ROI isn’t measured simply by financial metrics; it encompasses improved employee morale and productivity, reduced absenteeism, and a stronger organizational culture. In the domain of corporate wellness, you possess unique skills to help clients navigate the complexities of wellness program investments and showcase tangible returns that positively impact the bottom line. By recognizing the multifaceted benefits of investing in employee well-being and strategically guiding your clients, you can unlock significant value and drive long-term success.

Want to learn more about how you can support your clients in designing wellness programs that work for their employees? Feel free to check out our resources library or schedule a call to talk to one of our Benefits Specialists.

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