Closing the Engagement Gap: Selling Employees on Health and Wellness Onewalmart Wire Login

David Goldsmith and the team at Dossia recently invited me to present a webinar to their customers and industry colleagues on engagement strategy. walmart one

Participant engagement is a significant issue for many of their customers (WalMart, Intel, AT&T, Pitney Bowes, BP, etc.) and they are each searching for solutions that fit their populations.

In thinking through the overall aim of employee health and wellness initiatives, it really boils down to these four areas: lower costs, stronger culture, healthier people, and better performance.

It struck me that “this is not rocket science” (or shouldn’t be) and that got me thinking about rocket science, and its potential relevance to health and wellness.

When President Kennedy in 1961 set forth the ambition of putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth by the end of the decade, NASA was mobilized to achieve an enormous mission.

And, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, that historic dream was realized.

The accomplishment provides several strong lessons related to accomplishing audacious goals. But, in looking to draw parallels about government actions related to health and wellness, there are no meaningful analogs. Government has no substantial role in helping to ensure better health and wellness outcomes.

In fact, the single stakeholder group with the most to gain from having healthier people is employers. This is both a responsibility and a burden and we are continually reminded of just how hard it can be.

Health behavior change is difficult, and probably more challenging than most employers realize. Despite the fact that the industry continues to evolve, many employees are simply not “buying” into the wellness programs being offered.

The main problem is that we, as an industry, don’t do a great job of “selling” it.

So what can we learn from “Brand Owners” who must work every day to win the hearts and minds of their target consumers, and how can we translate these learnings toward achieving engagement success?

In sharing examples of brands such as the Ford F-150, the AT&T 4G LTE wireless network, and Fidelity Investments’ “Personal Economy” pitch, it was noted that their ubiquitous advertising messages (at least during NFL games), provide “moments of engagement” designed to lead to a single purchase decision.

And while each of these brand categories have fairly long purchase cycles, their messages are also intended to reinforce the decision and build loyalty.

The correlation to health-related engagement may not be direct, but the principles have relevance.

In translating to our world, we need to consider the following:

First, we need to do more to define what we mean by engagement. This much-cited, but undefined term needs clarity. In our work, we consider engagement to be a “means to an end,” which feeds into the second point.

We need to be clearer about our objectives and what we indent to accomplish with health and wellness initiatives. Part of the reason that today’s critics are having a field day with this space is because we haven’t applied enough business discipline. Having specific and attainable goals is the right starting point.

And third, we need to be practical about what can be accomplished in a given timeframe. This applies to both program goals and individual-level behavior change. We must set realistic goals based on available budget and resources and recognize that it takes time and sustained effort to achieve meaningful and long-lasting change.

Of course, engagement in the employer setting is different from brand marketing in many ways:

– We are marketing into a “closed” environment in that only employees (and dependents) are involved

– The target market is all employees and we expect (or hope) that the total universe will participate

– Price is absent, and in fact, we are often paying them

– Privacy is a big issue and can be very difficult to overcome in many settings

– Wellness is not the main event; job performance comes first

A final difference is that is that health and wellness is basically a daily “purchase decision.” The choices we make each and every day accumulate to improvement (or not), so reinforcing positive steps is critical for long-term success.

Seven Marketing Principles That Can Help Drive Engagement

In applying lessons from marketing, here are seven key principles that employers and their vendor and health plan partners should consider as you look to do more with engagement and health behavior change:

1. Dig deeper for more consumer insight. Regularly conduct market research with your people to better understand what’s working and what’s not.We recently ran a series of focus groups for one customer that was switching vendors and wanted to know what changes would lead to improved outcomes. The insights from listening to employees in structured sessions were invaluable in helping to make productive changes to their approach.

2. Consider consumer profiling. We’re all aware that one size does not fit all, so find ways to personalize interactions.We’re working with one customer now on using personality assessments to profile individuals and enable stronger coaching interactions.

3. Deliver better and more targeted communications. Consumers respond to messages that talk to their style.With proper segmentation, outreach can be tailored to the individual and their particular needs. One of our customers is currently developing an automated rules engine that will do just that.