Economy & Finance

Create a strategic plan for a healthier workforce

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Your insurance brokers, agents, carriers and consultants, along with public health researchers and practitioners, all have something to say about the wellness programs recommended for your worksite.

How do you know where to start or how to do it?

Over the course of this past year, I have written about policies, environments and culture changes, along with the importance of a wellness committee. To put it all together, you need a plan.

With wellness, strategic planning focuses on the well-being of employees and the community in which the company operates. A corporate wellness program plan should not deviate from your corporate business plan. No matter your corporate mission, a healthier workforce will be more efficient in achieving it.

Every plan starts with an assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of not only your customer base, but also your workforce. Keep in mind that your future workforce is made up mostly of members of your community, so include them in the analysis. Community assessment data is available from the health department. Workforce data is available from your insurance provider.

Assessments for wellness programs can be found through various online resources. The YMCA’s Community Healthy Living Index has a tool that assesses worksite policies and environments, particularly related to food and physical activity. Another great resource is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthier Worksite Initiative and the Worksite Health ScoreCard. The Health ScoreCard manual explains how the assessment was developed, how to use the tool and how like-sized companies tend to score.

Once you have a good idea of the current situation and the likelihood of future developments from your assessment, the next step is planning the program or intervention.

A comprehensive wellness program is incorporated at all levels of the business. Employees should have multiple ways to participate, from new employee orientation to everyday environments (such as healthy vending and exercise facilities) and policies (such as smoke-free campuses and healthy foods at meetings), lunch-and-learns, contests, and the annual health benefits enrollment. It’s usually not a good idea to make many big changes at once, so a strategic plan will help determine what changes you can implement and a three- to five-year timeline.

Plan for big changes and enact them one step at a time. Communicate every step of the plan with employees so they know what is happening and why changes are occurring. Employee surveys can be utilized to include the workforce in the planning and implementation processes.

Finally, the joy of strategic planning is that it is never finished.

Your wellness team should be evaluating continually the process and the outcomes. Evaluation data is important because it plays into the next round of assessment, planning and implementation. The data is also useful in building a case for why changes are occurring. Evaluation data can be used to secure funding for wellness programs from executive offices, better rates from insurance providers and additional participation from employees.

Claims data from your insurance company will be easier to see if you are self-insured. Other companies may need to work closely with their providers and brokers to understand what is driving their health insurance costs. Other data can include health risk assessments, workers’ compensation claims, time off and other productivity costs, and employee satisfaction or morale. Big changes won’t occur in these metrics in one or two years, but with consistent work toward a healthier environment and more participation from employees, results should appear in three to five years.

Take the long view and start down the path of healthier living.
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