Employers can use biometric screenings to understand the overall health risks facing their employee population as well as to offer employees a clear window into their health status and help develop a personalized educational commitment to improving their wellbeing.

“A health and wellness program is successful in reaching employees resistant to change when it focuses on clinically based, biometric outcomes that reward individual health progress, instead of requiring the same metrics for all employees,” explains Joseph O’Brien, president and CEO of Interactive Health.

He adds that personalizing health goals, as well as the resources and programs employees use to achieve them, is the key to creating long-lasting behavior change. 

For example, one employer client worked with Interactive Health in designing an outcomes-based wellness program that focused on employees with diabetes or at risk of developing the chronic disease. The employer set up a broad incentive to encourage targeted employees to participate in the program. If an employee signed up for ongoing meetings with a health coach specializing in diabetes and completed hemoglobin A1C testing, they would receive their diabetic testing supplies for free.

One diabetic employee, who was taking multiple daily injections to manage her disease, told her health coach she was only participating to obtain the incentive. However, her attitude changed completely over the course of the eight-week program. Working with the health coach, she straightened out her medication requirements, discovering she had mistakenly been taking one prescription twice daily instead of once. The participant and coach also set reachable biometric goals and as a result of the personalized attention, the employee’s hemoglobin A1C results dropped substantially. Most importantly, the employee believed she was finally taking control of her diabetes and now vocally advocates for her employer’s wellness program.

“Improving one’s health can seem overwhelming, which is why the most effective clinically based measurements are progressive – they reward an individual employee’s progress by establishing a baseline in the first year of the program and focusing on an achievable, medically sound goal for the following year. Having a progressive goal is especially important for resistant employees, because it doesn’t require such a substantial change right away. In other words, it allows them to comfortably progress in a healthy way, and feel good about their accomplishments,” says O’Brien.

While resistant employees can be a challenge to engage, O’Brien argues that personalizing a wellness program is not difficult and goes a long way to entice employees to participate and proactively manage their disease going forward.

Further, O’Brien believes the incentives should be tailored to the individual as well using outcomes-based metrics. A participation-based incentive encourages employees to take a health evaluation, but doesn’t offer a meaningful motivation to improve their lifestyle and disease management practices. An outcomes-based incentive, on the other hand, “gives an employee a real reason to pursue and achieve health goals,” O’Brien adds.

According to Interactive Health data, 81% of their program participants achieve their personal health goal due to a personalized approach for all employees. Their employer clients also reported a 20% lower medical spend, according to a 2012 independent study. In addition, participants returned to work 17 days sooner from short term disability leave.

Word of mouth from colleagues is the strongest advocate for employees to participate. Wellness champions can positively influence resistant counterparts by modeling successful behavior changes and health goal achievements. Positive peer pressure can be utilized to your advantage. For example, a resistant employee may climb the stairs with co-workers after lunch to be part of the group.

“Writing off employees that seem less-than-enthusiastic about a new health and wellness program is a mistake – for them, and the organization’s goals. It just takes the right program, focused on the right things at the right time,” says O’Brien.

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