Workplace Health and Wellness as a Strategic Talent Management Lever

Workplace Health and Wellness is a booming industry, estimated to have permeated over 78% of workplaces in 2016. Furthermore, a recent study found that 87% of companies are investing in or planning to improve their investment in employee wellbeing offerings in the near future. As these programs become more commonplace and employees become more informed healthcare consumers, now is the time for organizations to think about workplace Health and Wellness programs as an impactful strategic talent management lever.


Through our research and working with clients on workplace Health and Wellness between 2014 and 2016, we developed a model that identifies the four primary dimensions that underlie the maturity of workplace Health & Wellness programs:

– Programming: encompasses the Health and Wellness offerings that an organization delivers, including incentive programming.

– Governance: assesses the degree of leadership buy-in, employee resources, and vendor management a program has.

– Enablers: refer to how programming is experienced by employees based on vendor use, technology, and communication.

– Performance Measurement: considers the extent to which organizations set objectives for success and the measurement strategies they use.

Based on these four dimensions, we have developed a four-stage Health and Wellness Program Maturity Model (© 2015-2017 Kaiser Associates) to diagnose client programs and ultimately help them move from Nascent and Emerging stages to Comprehensive and Blue Ribbon programs.


So, what are some of the best practices we have learned from our work in this field?

– Start with a good business case, as you would with any other strategic initiative. When pitching a Health and Wellness program to senior leaders, it is critical to be transparent about what success looks like, how it will be measured, and what milestones will be achieved. In fact, in addition to looking at the traditional ROI, many leading organizations are also incorporating a “VOI” measure – looking at the value of the investment or benefit to the employee.

– Start where you are today. It isn’t possible to further analyze and achieve measurable business outcomes unless you know that employees will continue to participate in existing programs. Therefore, measurement is a “walk before you run” scenario that starts with getting employees to participate in whatever your program is today.

– Evolve your organization’s language, actions, and behaviors to elevate the conversation. Think carefully about the language used to describe programs, initiatives, and outcomes, and get senior leaders on board with sharing their personal stories too. For example, phrases associated with stigmas such as “weight management” may resonate more effectively when referred to as “fuel management,” “mental health” may resonate better when referred to as “emotional fitness,” etc.

– Take an integrated approach to Health and Wellness at an organizational level. Historically (and among less mature programs), workplace Health and Wellness has been considered a vertical initiative within HR / Benefits functions. The current and future maturity of Health and Wellness programs requires a shift to approach it as a horizontal platform, or better yet, to embed it into the fabric of the organization. Decoupling Health and Wellness from the Benefits function enables greater integration and synergy across the organization.

– Focus on the “whole person” and individualizing Health and Wellness at the employee level. Enabling individuals to personalize programs based on their unique Health and Wellness goals yields more significant and enduring outcomes. Storytelling is another way to spread the message and to enable individuals to understand how to apply the benefits or programs to themselves.

As workplace Health and Wellness continues to take off, organizations who approach it as a strategic talent management lever will reap the most positive – and lasting – return on investment and value.

This article has been written by Lilith Christiansen is a Vice President at Kaiser Associates and originally published in WISP blog.

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