“Are my employees engaged in our wellness program?” This is a question all Human Resources or Wellness Directors are familiar with, yet so many find hard to answer. While it might seem like a simple “yes” or “no”, limiting yourself to these answers might be what’s holding you back from having a successful program.

It’s critical to remember that every person in your organization is unique, and, realistically, not one person will be 100% engaged with every offering, even if you have a top notch program. In fact, a RAND corporation study found that of the companies that offer wellness programs, only 24% of employees participate . While that number may seem low, it’s important to note that participation and engagement are not the same.

To participate means “to take part”. When we talk about employee participation, we refer to an action that was taken, but isn’t ongoing. On the other hand, engagement can be defined as an “emotional involvement or commitment”. Engaged employees participate and then go beyond that, becoming intrinsically motivated to remain engaged over time.

Now… how does an employee get to that level?

First things first, it starts with you. Take the time to define and understand your employee engagement demographics. Ultimately, you’ll realize how you can best serve your team by segmenting them into different categories. While one employee might find a smoking cessation program beneficial, a financial wellbeing program may better suit the next. Defining your audiences will highlight any barriers applicable to each demographic, and it will show you how to adjust your wellness offering to best suit  their needs.

Understanding your demographic will help you create more effective engagement strategies, increasing both participation and engagement. We’ve done the leg work and divided these categories into four sub-groups to help you get started.

Highly Engaged


Highly engaged employees  will participate and commit to your wellness offering because they understand the impact it has on their lives. More often than not, they are simultaneously cultivating a healthy lifestyle alongside your program.

How can you engage them further?

Continue to offer intrinsic rewards to them. Your rewards don’t have to be frequent, but it is imperative that you recognize their efforts over time. Remember, engagement is not linear. Without consideration of everyone’s efforts, people could gradually become less involved. Another option is to let highly engaged employees be your internal wellness champion. Not only will they provide valuable insights, but they will also influence and help guide your other employees.

Socially Engaged


These employees are almost as engaged as the first group, however, they typically need more encouraging. They’re willing to set aside the time to be part of the program - but not without a gentle push. Once they see the program is beneficial for them, they’ll become more involved, albeit, inconsistently.

How can you engage them further?

If your program is fitness-based, suggest a featured workout or studio and invite the office to meet up. You can also guide them towards being active during meetings, however they’re able to. This will prevent employees from feeling like they’re going at it on their own. You could also provide them with a way to create S.M.A.R.T goals in relation to your program. This will help motivate them to be more substantially involved. Like the first group, don’t forget to reward their growth and recognize their achievements.


Engaged Based on Convenience


This group is all about convenience. They have limited time and energy to invest in themselves, and they won’t participate unless the program can fit into their already packed schedules. They’re not going to go out of their way to use their fitness benefit, unless it is close by their work, home, or on the commute. They want to make changes and need a program that supports their needs.

How can you engage them further?

If you’re offering in-office lectures, financial assistance, or smoking cessation programs, offer them during your employees’ lunch hour. Scheduling events before or after work will limit availability and generally make your employees feel like the wellness program isn’t that important.

If your program is fitness-based, ensure that it is customizable for each person. If the facilities are not in your building, the studio or gym you’re offering should be close to the office and/or within a small radius of their home. Work with your wellness account manager to gather requests and follow up on implementation.

Cautiously Engaged


These employees are commonly the largest subset of your engagement demographic. The majority of them will sign up, participate once or twice, and then drop off.  They’re probably really intimidated by the whole offering or program. They might be completely overwhelmed by things going on in their life, and the wellness program takes a back seat to their needs. This is important to know, since being active or focusing on self-care reduces stress dramatically.

How can you engage them further?

To engage this group, it's important to understand their main roadblocks. For example, if they’re having financial hardships, having a raffle prize with monetary value can encourage them to get involved. Create a simple wellness challenge with a manageable goal, as to not further alienate them. Offer stress-reducing tips  and take the time to acknowledge that they probably have a lot on their plate. Treating all employees, and especially those who are not as engaged, in a holistic manner will allow them to feel valued and have a more positive outlook on your company.

All things considered, managing and promoting engagement in programs is no easy feat, and people’s places within these groups will fluctuate over time. However, once you understand your employee engagement demographic, you’ll be more empowered to make better decisions. Try to target these important demographics when you announce your wellness program, so your employees can pivot from “taking part,” to “committing in themselves.”



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