Benefits, HR Management

Your Company’s Wellness Message: It Pays to Not Try and Spin Employees

Employee wellness

When it comes to communicating about workplace wellness, there’s some debate about what the company’s message should be.

Some say a company should never mention costs. The messaging should focus instead on family, retirement dreams, being around to see the grand kids. “XYZ company offers health benefits to help you reach your dream — whatever that dream is.” Sound familiar?

The logic is that employees aren’t really interested in their company’s costs. Plus, they can avoid potential accusations of ulterior motives.

Frankly, this logic falls flat for me and presents a few inherent problems.

Employees want the dots connected

It doesn’t give employees a heck of a lot of credit. Employees understand what’s driving their employer’s interest in their well-being. They even feel something approaching empathy for their company’s situation. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, two out of three employees said “they were offered the best coverage the company could afford given financial circumstances.”

It ignores that employees want the dots connected. Employees are all for wellness efforts that help lower premiums.

In this same Kaiser poll, 68 percent said they’d participate in a wellness effort if it meant lower premiums. They understand that wellness is a business equation. It’s an investment like any other, with productivity, absenteeism, engagement, retention and lowered health care bills as the company ROI, flat-lined or minimized cost-shifting and continued career opportunity as the employee ROI.

Avoid corporate spin

It turns health communications into corporate spin. Reading a message of “we care about your health” doesn’t pass muster when leaders aren’t ferreting out the cultural and environmental stressors that lead to poor well-being. It’s immediately questionable, and so is everything else along with it, such as health privacy — an assurance companies can’t afford to have questioned.

Workplace wellness isn’t only about cost, and it isn’t solely about employees being alive to see their grand kids. It’s about all of this — maybe more virtuous, maybe less, depending on the company.

The magic is in bringing together these two important messages in how companies deliver workplace wellness and how they communicate about it.

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s Free-Range Communication blog.

Fran Melmed is an award-winning HR communications consultant specializing in workplace wellness and health care consumerism. Prior to founding context communication consulting llc context communication, Fran worked at Hewitt Associates in their Talent and Organizational Change and Communication practices in the U.S. and U.K. Contact her at fran@contextcommunication.com, and follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/femelmed.
  • http://twitter.com/wendykeneipp Wendy Keneipp

    Fred, I completely agree here. That employers think employees are different from themselves is funny – if they have to create spin for a message, their employees are going to see it that way. Easy math there. And there is the insulting part – really, no one likes being patronized and that’s what the spin amounts to.

    I’m all for being honest with people about your motivations – it helps them see it from your perspective (possibly different from their own) and possibly puts them in a position of better understanding or empathy for what’s happening. And the more they know and understand, the better equipped they are to make good decisions on their own rather than being led around with a carrot or stick.

    Yes, respect the employee and be upfront about your motives. I’ve always respected those employers who acted that way.

    • http://contextcommunication.com fran melmed

      Thanks Wendy. 

      Respect. That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Respect my intelligence. Respect my desire to make some changes and not others. Respect my need for support and to have the work-related barriers to my being healthy removed. Respect that change is hard. All of that, and more. 

      Cheers, 
      fran