Want to really make your wellness program work? Then you’d better start customizing it to make the offerings more relevant to individual employees.

That’s the significant finding from a joint report by Welltok and the nonprofit National Business Group on Health, called “Whispers from the Water Cooler: What motivates employees to improve their health and well-being.”

The groups, who surveyed more than 1,000 full-time employees working for large companies, found that more personalization is needed to make health and well-being programs succeed. The vast majority of respondents (81%) who were already involved in their company’s programs saw a positive impact on their health and well-being. But of those who weren’t participating, 37% stated that it was because they didn’t find the program personally relevant.

[Image: Bloomberg]
[Image: Bloomberg]

“Many programs put out in the past have been one-size fits all but people have different needs,” says Michelle Snyder, the chief marketing officer at Welltok. “Employers need to think about that and have various types of programs.”

The second leading cause of lagging participation is easier to fix — tell them about it. One in five respondents who are not currently participating simply didn’t know it was available. While most employers are already spending time and money to alert their employees about available programs, their current approaches may not be working, research indicates. Personalization can help in this area as well.

“Personalization is one way to break through and use what motivates people as individuals,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at NBGH. “I think an important aspect of the personalized aspect is to find out what motivates the individual and incorporating that into the program.”

One of the easiest ways to reshape general wellness programs to fit individuals is to look at data already collected. This data can show what benefits employees value and need.

The survey also explored the role of using family, co-workers and other external rewards. According to the survey, 60% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that including family in wellness programs would likely increase their participation. More than 90% would engage in healthier behaviors if they were rewarded, including almost all of respondents younger than 35.

When it comes to the workplace, employees say they get the majority of their motivation to improve their health and well-being from colleagues, followed by their direct manager. Millennials are more likely to get motivation from their direct manager while 40% of older respondents are influenced by HR, the survey found.

“You have to get the direct managers to walk the talk so that employees can see their managers getting involved rather than just having motivation coming from the HR department,” Snyder says.

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