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March 07, 2007
Wellness Initiatives Can Result In Significant ROI for Employers

Studies of the wellness plans of 200 companies completed by the American Journal of Health Promotion conclude that the return on investment (ROI) for employee wellness programs can be as high as 348 percent in 3 to 6 years! This figure certainly suggests taking a closer look at instituting a wellness program if you don't already have one in place at your company. And if you do, review your wellness plan and program to make certain that your ROI is as high as it can be, says Heather R. Hunt, editor of Workplace Wellness: Healthy Employees, Healthy Families, Healthy ROI, a comprehensive workplace wellness guidebook published by BLR, Inc.

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When wellness programs are not successful, it's often because there's a lack of senior management support and/or the original planning wasn't as comprehensive as it should have been, Hunt explains. Senior leadership must communicate the importance of the wellness initiative to employees up front. They should also participate in the program once it is up and running to set an example for other staff.

Assess Employee Needs

To begin planning, says Hunt, "You should start out by assessing your employee needs." She provides an example of a company that runs an excellent breast health program--for an employee population that is 80 percent male. The ROI on that particular program would be low since only a small percentage of the employees can take advantage of it.

Assessing employee needs can be done through employee surveys, focus groups, and analysis of employee demographics. For example, if you have a very young employee population, or an older population, or the majority is female, their needs might be quite different from another employer such as the one noted above. If you have many smokers, you might institute a stop smoking plan, suggests Hunt.

Develop Operating Plan

Once you have determined the health needs of staff, you should develop a comprehensive operating plan that includes a mission statement for your wellness programming, says Hunt. The plan should incorporate the SMART method; it should include Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed objectives and action steps, she explains.

Even if a company doesn't have enough internal human resources to staff and run a comprehensive program, it can often partner with outside vendors or community organizations to achieve the employee wellness goals and objectives that have been set, Hunt explains. Often an employee health insurance carrier offers some programming, and local branches of the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, for example, offer community preventive programs that an employer can also access.

Achieving better employee health is a goal that will afford employers cost savings in less absenteeism, lower increases in health insurance premiums, and a more productive workforce. The comprehensive, 400-plus page guide includes surveys, forms, wellness program communication pieces, and metrics by which to measure your organization's success and is available at

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