Is Your Wellness Program a One Size Fits All Program?

  • Feb 13, 2012

Is your Wellness Program a one size fits all program?

Getting an Unrealistic Sense of the Fitness Goals of Your Employees

Austin, Texas: While at a business meeting last week with nearly twenty healthcare professionals, I got an uneasy feeling that the perception of one’s employees did not necessarily match the reality, especially when it came to wellness and fitness goals.

A majority of the healthcare professionals felt that wellness incentives should be used sparingly and that employees should be motivated to lose weigh and to stop smoking for their own benefit.

In an ideal world, that would be so.  In reality, it is so far from the truth as to be laughable.

At the meeting, I noted that all but one of the executives I was meeting with were physically fit. Two were bicyclists, six were runners, one was an elite swimmer, one played racquetball, one was a tennis player , one played basketball in a men’s 40-and-over league for and one practiced Tai Chi on a daily basis.

I would argue that this is not a representative audience of the general public at all, so empathy and understanding might be lacking.

“If it was so easy to stop smoking, or to drop ten pounds, why wouldn’t everyone do it”, I asked?

The majority of this audience cited laziness or lack of desire as the cause and 80% of this group thought that if they weren’t self motivated, then there was nothing they or their company could do about it.

I would argue that your C-Level and upper management should be kept as far away from the design of a wellness program as possible, other than giving it their blessing. Many just don’t understand.

People who are obese or that are smokers probably need a different form of motivation than the employee who should drop five pounds.

A wellness program cannot be a one size fits all program. There are many reasons that a person might be overweight – including depression and self-image issues.  A rah-rah motivation meeting is not enough to move these people forward.

Many wellness programs I see are too simplistic:

  • Do this and get that. 
  • Let’s Get Moving.
  • 250 Extra Steps a Day.
  • Drop Five.
  • Biggest Loser Contest.
  • Eat Healthy.

They make for nice slogans, but they are not effective.

A majority of your employees can lose weight and stop smoking, if they are properly motivated, educated and kept after.  But your outliers, those that are not participating or getting results after the first few weeks of your program, need additional help and attention.

–Do not assume that all employees are going to be motivated by the same goals.  They are not.

–Don’t assume that those that are not participating are spiteful or beyond help.  They are not.

–Don’t assume that all employees will want to eat right because it is the smart thing to do. They don’t.

It is your job as a wellness professional to get to the root cause of the lack of participation by those 10-15% of employees that seem to ignore, or ridicule your wellness program.

Bring in professional counselors to try to work with these folks.  Perhaps they can find the root cause of their unhappiness or lack of desire.

Try, then try again until you know that you have done your best.

Wellness is not a one-and-done program.  It takes time to develop. It needs constant revisions and adjustments. And it needs consistent analysis to see where it is working best and where it needs more work. On top of this, an effective wellness program needs a Plan B for those that the main program is not reaching effectively.  Then a Plan C for the group that is still not reaching its goals.

There is no one size fits all in wellness, like there is no one size fits all in any other aspect of business.

Forget the slogans.

Start looking at your employees as individuals and perhaps you can find each of their hot buttons.

Here’s to a Healthier Workforce.


  • Category: Wellness Programs
  • Tags: best wellness program strategies, ideas to improve wellness program, is there a one size fits all approach to wellness, Wellness incentives, wellness programs