Can health coaching increase employee engagement?

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The purpose of a wellness program is to help create meaningful behavior change in the lives of employees across the full spectrum of wellbeing. A successful wellness program will lead to a healthier company and ultimately lower the cost of health care for the business. Sounds like a win-win for everyone, right?

Of course, this plan will fail unless employers can find ways to encourage employees to take part in the program. Simply creating a wellness program isn't enough. Employers need to find out exactly what features will benefit employees the most. If they’ve found that employees are hesitant to join a wellness program, they may find that if done correctly, offering one-on-one health and wellness coaching can be a beneficial addition to the existing options.

Health and wellness coaches are professionals certified through an accredited organization to provide effective coaching. The training may include motivational interviewing, intrinsic motivation, temperament and other key aspects. In addition, many coaches bring backgrounds in fitness, nutrition and even clinical backgrounds to the role. They use their expertise to help employees tune into the motivation that drives each of them. Clearly, even if pursuing the exact same goal, what helps move one person forward may have little or no impact on another employee.

Whether employees are interested in losing weight, eating better, quitting smoking, reducing stress, improving their sleep, managing their biometric screening results or any other of a number of unique (yet related) goals, a health and wellness coach can help bridge the gap between setting and meeting a goal. Health and wellness coaches typically meet with employees to discuss their health goals and identify their risk levels for common issues. After the initial assessment, they will help the individual customize their own plan – this increases the likelihood of putting it (and keeping it) in practice immensely.

5 benefits
There are multiple benefits to adding a health coach to your wellness program. Here are a few of the top reasons why companies may want to consider hiring a health coach:

1) Improve overall company health. Thanks to the personalized attention and engagement with a health and wellness coach, more people may be willing to participate in the wellness program, which improves the overall health of the company. Health and wellness coaches can help identify a common health issue in the company and work toward resolving it by offering at-risk individuals the tools they need to combat it. The better the company's overall health, the less money the company has to pay in health care. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that smokers cost employers $1,897 each year and someone who is considered obese costs an extra $1,429 in medical costs compared to people who fall in the normal weight range.

2) Boost engagement. By offering health and wellness coaching services, it shows that the company is invested in the health of its employees. Due to the one-on-one interaction, employees are more likely to feel engaged in the wellness program. Not only does a health and wellness coach serve to inspire employees by creating a personal connection, but they can also help each individual tailor their own plan. Since health and wellness coaches meet with the individual to learn more about their goals, they can tailor fitness and diet plans to help each person succeed. As a bonus, a wellness coach will also have insights into all the various benefits related to wellness that the company offers and can help encourage the employee to utilize those as appropriate. For example, for organizations that have an effective wellness coaching model in place, it is not unusual to see greatly enhanced (appropriate) utilization of the EAP or financial services. Topics come up during discussions with the coach and the coach can talk through the value of peeling back the next layer of the onion — and provide some friendly accountability to be sure they take advantage of these additional benefits. In a nutshell, this aspect of wellness coaching essentially adds value to all other wellness-related benefits.

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3) Spread the word. Often, employees are unfamiliar with what a wellness plan can offer them. Health and wellness coaches serve as independent spokespeople for the program and help people understand the benefits of joining. They can encourage participation by spreading the word about rewards and incentives and can remind people of upcoming deadlines to give them one last push toward meeting their goals. If employers haven’t had a good experience with coaching in the past, they should ask about trying out a session to see if it’s something that might help team members.

4) Demonstrate the benefits. Health and wellness coaches work onsite or provide personalized coaching telephonically. For the vast majority of organizations, the telephonic model provides a much more affordable option while still incorporating the critical personalization (if done effectively — be careful as some models are simply an annoying call center “coaching” model). This virtual, yet personalized model allows individuals to make the most of their time while still connecting personally to someone who can help them optimize their own health and wellness outcomes.

5) Collect feedback. Since health and wellness coaches are on the front lines, they are able to easily gather feedback from employees about what features of the wellness program they do and do not like. Employees may be more likely to express concerns and questions to an individual who is familiar with their health, rather than using a generic feedback program that may feel less personal and take longer to resolve.

To get started, advisers should help clients conduct a search to find the right health and wellness coaching organization for their teams. Typically, it’s most valuable to have two, three or more coaches available for employees, as different personalities mix better with certain coaching styles and backgrounds. Yet, be sure that when setting up the model for an organization, it emphasizes the personal relationship component and doesn’t just have employees speaking with someone random each time. Health and wellness is incredibly personal. That means health and wellness coaching must follow that same model.

From there, the health and wellness coach can start to work with employees to improve their wellness and start to save companies money on healthcare costs, improve productivity, reduce sick time and enhance the overall culture of the organization.

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Employee engagement Workforce management Wellness Wellness programs Employee benefits