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Motivating Employees Always A Challenging Goal, Managers Say

Motivating and incenting employees to participate in their organization’s wellness programs is a much cited chief concern of wellness and health promotion professionals responding to the Workplace Wellness Management Survey, sponsored by WellnessJunction.

Among the expressed concerns of wellness managers were such comments as getting employees to "buy in;" participation and commitment; "getting people engaged and participating;" ample time for the employee to participate in any programming; "how to retain employees once they are engaged in the program;" the lack of individual employee motivation; getting people to use their memberships; and motivating additional participation.

The problem is employees "have so many work-related time constraints that sometimes it is difficult to get them to see wellness programs as a good use of their already limited time," said a corporate nurse practitioner.

Concerning employee enrollment in programs a manager health promotion said: "Those interested in the interventions are the ones who need the interventions the least."

Keeping employees once they participate in a wellness program is a challenge said a corporate wellness coordinator. "People start off with a great deal of enthusiasm, but unless continual reinforcement or some kind of incentive is offered, they tend to fall out ... participation drops."

The link between incentives and participation was brought up by another survey respondent who cited incentive-based (premium reduction) health coverage that rewards plan participants who attain personal health improvement goals as an issue.

"The healthcare system as we know it in America will financially self destruct in the near future if more creative approaches are not introduced," said G. Gregory Tooker, president and principal consultant of a wellness services company. "Dollar savings incentives through reduction of personal health risk is the only way to move the majority of the population to change its lifestyle."

Said Kristen Miles, a hospital occupational health manager: "In the current environment of people assuming less responsibility for their actions, it is going to be imperative for the employer to use ‘strong-arm’ tactics to force (or incentivize) their employers to make healthier choices."

"Employee participation is what makes the programs work," said a corporate health and wellness consultant. "I am responsible for participation whether or not I get incentives. Incentives sure would help though."

Another manager observed that "Although employees are encouraged to participate, they often don’t without tangible rewards, which drive up the costs of the programs."

Keeping programs fresh and new is important to the ongoing employee participation, said a respondent. "In order to do something long term we need something and someway to have people remain interested."

The balance between the promotion of wellness efforts "while many organizations are tasking employees to a greater extent in terms of productivity and output expectations and demanding longer hours in the workplace" is a dilemma, believes an EAP director.

"The tension between wellness and work/life balance and the increasing demands of productivity and hours worked is becoming very pronounced in many organizations and seems to underminethe wellness message," the EA professional said.

Another respondent cited the "Time crunch; employees can’t seem to find the time to get into the onsite fitness center. People in general just seem to be getting busier and busier!"

"It is just our lifestyles today as well as the mentality of employers, do more with less people," he said.

Motivating employees to participate in high-risk intervention programs is of keen interest to Jan Renner, a hospital supervisor of community education and wellness.

"I think the companies feel the need to implement programs but the employees must want to make changes. In order to continue programming, we need to show success. Success will happen if we can getemployees to participate and complete intervention activities."

"Unless people participate we have less impact. People cite time, money, and disinterest as reasons to not participate," offered a hospital director of wellness services.

"Participation is always a challenge because it relates to budget. If there is no participation there are no results," agreed a hospital program coordinator.

Reaching low-wage earners is the chief concern of Margarita Chapman, executive director of Creating Healthy Lives. "The low-wage earners are the people that drive healthcare costs and, unfortunately are in the poorest health while receiving the poorest care."

Finally, Christopher A. Sylvain, PD, CEO of a wellness services company summed up the issue: "If members are motivated, it solves all of the other problems of costs and outcomes."

The exclusive Workplace Wellness Management Survey was conducted among subscribers to Wellness Program Management Advisor and Wellness Junction Professional Update and among members of the online community.

© 2008 Health Resources Publishing