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5 Change Strategies to Make Your Wellness Program Irresistible

Benjamin Prinzing
Apr 21, 2016 10:50:10 AM


On April 14th, at our last Worksite Wellness Network event, we had a guest speaker come out, Judy Clarke (a 25-year change management veteran) who took a look at wellness programs through a change management lens.  

She explained a variety of different change management models/theories that could help ease the implementation of a new wellness initiative and also help maintain momentum for any current wellness initiatives. Being new to my role not just at Kadalyst, but also new to the wellness industry, I thought I'd share my notes on some key takeaways. Enjoy!

1. Create A Vision of Change
Create a strategy - analyze the demographic and figure out what channels of communication will be the most effective - e-mail, face-to-face, fliers, bulletin boards, internal community or your intranet homepage, etc. 

Creating a vision is like writing a story from beginning to end. You already know the beginning of your wellness story, but how do you want it to end? Do you want overall health improvement, lower medical benefit utilization or better employee retention? Make sure to communicate the process and the potential outcome to everyone. 

2. Motivate Change and Overcome Resistance
When trying to initiate some kind of change, using incentives is a common and useful tool, but it's not the only tool - communication is a much bigger factor. After you create the vision you begin the process of change, make sure that the communication channels are relevant and will relate directly to each employee. No one wants to see dated fliers from the 1980's about blood pressure; be creative.

Also, if all of your communications are via email always check your demographics to make sure that employees actually check their emails, or better yet, use an email campaign tool like Mailchimp, that can track who's opened your email and clicked on your attachments or links. The free version works great!

Resistance to change will always be there - one way to combat resistance, is to stop trying to direct all of your communication efforts towards the non-believers or the employees who are resisting. Instead, spotlight your early adopters who love your program - give them prizes, refer to their wellness accomplishments within your communications. Once employees see their peers benefiting from the program, they will want to jump on the bandwagon. Nothing beats positive peer-pressure!

3. Develop Political Support

There are a variety of ways to develop political support, here are a few ideas: 

  • Corporate Sponsor: The CEO can act as the corporate sponsor to show everyone that the executive leadership is practicing what they preach
  • Executive Leadership Team: Elect board members, directors and senior level managers to participate in wellness activities 
  • Well-being Champion: Elect an employee(s) that is an early adopter who can act as a great advocate among their peers
  • Start up a group activity (a kickball team) and get all levels of leadership involved along with the employees and their families - this will not only develop political support, but strengthen the community 
4. Manage the Transition of Change

Everyone seems to just focus on managing the change and getting their employees from "resistance" to "acceptance" as fast as possible. A common step that gets overlooked, is managing the "transition of the change." An  example that was brought up, compared changing a habit to breaking up with a significant other. Don't you wish you were able to mentally prepare yourself before a breakup?

What I learned is that you need to create resources for employees on how to efficiently cope with a loss or an addition. For example, if a component of your wellness initiative is to have a smoke-free worksite, there should be resources about the transition.

Also, give your employees a realistic amount of time before the change occurs. The whole purpose of a wellness program is to improve health and increase employee satisfaction.

 Client Spotlight: One of our clients, Sunstone Circuits, gave their employees a 14-month advanced noticed about going smoke-free. Sunstone's executive team set a firm date of 1/1/16, back in November of 2014! This gave the staff ample time to get ready for the change, and when January 1st came along, the resistance was minimal. Plus, Kadalyst created a fun animated video to announce the change in a positive way. Check it out! 

5. Sustaining the Momentum 

I learned that the key to sustaining momentum is to stay consistent. Renae Coombs, Benefits, Wellness and Compensation Manager at SAIF Corporation says, "Communicate early, often, and always." 

Constantly acknowledge and communicate successes throughout the company. Check on the success of your communication channel, so if you are sending out email fliers to inform your employees about the wellness program, send out a follow-up survey to get their feedback.  If your company is hiring on new employees, schedule new hire "wellness orientations" so that the new employees are fully aware of what's available.

 Wrap Up

Don't expect an efficient change unless you properly manage the "transition of the change." When deciding how to communicate or who to communicate to, equally focus your communication efforts towards the non-believers and early adopters, and directing communication towards early adopters (sending out newsletters highlighting those employees that are improving their health) will encourage other employees to participate.

 What's Next?!

For those that missed this talk, we will be hosting a follow-up webinar with Judy Clarke on May 12th at 9:00am. Register now to save your spot!

Register for Webinar 

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