Navigating the Data Maze: The Dos and Don’ts of Measuring Wellness

Now more than ever, employers are recognizing the critical role that workplace wellness programs play in enhancing the productivity and well-being of employees. As with any business initiative, however, a system must be in place to measure success. Although workplace wellness has been a popular topic for years, structured methods of data collection and measurement are still underdeveloped.

Recently, Humana partnered with the Economist Intelligence Unit to conduct an employer and employee survey to explore the challenges of data collection and measurement in regards to workplace wellness programs. The study, Measuring Wellness: From Data to Insights, confirmed that data collection remains one of the top challenges cited by employers – nearly two-thirds of surveyed employers said they struggle collecting and effectively utilizing wellness program data.

Applying a successful method of measuring wellness programs isn’t impossible, however. Here are my tips for creating and implementing an effective measurement process:

DON’T just measure if your program is being used. Measure if it works.

A well-informed wellness strategy is based on direct insights into what drives your organization. I’ve said it before – it’s hard to know where to go if you don’t first know where you are.

Today, less than half (39 percent) of employers surveyed implement internal benchmarks to create a measurable road map for their wellness programs. By better understanding what motivates your employees, you will be able to target and prioritize your program objectives. From there, employers must set measurable goals that will be used to track success and measure if the program works in achieving those objectives, not only if it is being used.

DO measure consistently and holistically.

A lot of data exists, but quality of data trumps quantity. A majority of executives agree that better data collection and interpretation would yield more effective program management and greater progress towards goals.

The key is to identify vendors that can help you turn data that encompass everything from health, to costs to activity and productivity into useful information and insights that will aid you in assessing and refining your objectives. Put the information you have to work to make informed decisions about your wellness strategy.

And think outside of the box. According to the survey, with the right incentives companies may be able to leverage employee-use of devices, such as Fitbits or smart watches, to further enhance the collection of accurate, real-time, quality data.

DON’T assume you know what motivates your employees.

In order to develop realistic goals, employers need to understand their company’s current wellness landscape.  Don’t resort to assumptions. Case in point, the survey revealed several disparities between employer and employee perceptions.

30 percent of employers perceive their employees do not prioritize their health, while only 2 percent of employees agree it wasn’t a priority. Many employers also believe that employees are not willing to share personal data about health and wellness. In actuality, 66 percent of employees say they would share data with their employer provided they received assurances that it would be used only for their benefit. And 56 percent agree they would share information with a third party if there were credible guarantees of confidentiality.

DO commit to progress and a culture of health.

Employers need to be proactive and transparent in their communications with employees to build trust, assure them of how their data will be used and what the privacy protections are regarding any wellness data that is collected.

It’s also critical that employers leverage the insights they glean from data collection to keep stakeholders informed and engaged. Share what you learn with your employees and program partners and keep them in tune with progress, successes and trends to encourage continued trust and engagement.

Most importantly create an environment that truly inspires wellness around the clock and ensure all your leaders are supporting a wellness culture. After all, employees indicated in the survey that activities and services that allow them to pursue their health and wellness goals – even while at work – are most likely to motivate them to participate in their wellness program.

For study details and more information about workplace wellness, visit When Wellness Works.

Speak loudly, step boldly!

Follow me on twitter: @bethbierbowerNovember 20th, 2014 9:37am Beth Bierbower whenwellnessworks healthy living