Not All Engagement Is Created Equal

September 10, 2014

You can tell a great deal by how a vendor thinks about and measures engagement, and like engagement, not all vendors are created equal.  Many wellness companies throw around engagement metrics as evidence of their successful programs, but before buying the hype, judicious consumers should ask themselves a few important questions.

How does a vendor measure engagement?
The goal of wellness programs is to reward behaviors that improve employee health, thereby lowering medical expenses for all stakeholders and increasing employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention.  If this is the ultimate goal, why do so many measures of engagement include activities that do not tangibly make advancements toward stated objectives?  Employers should ask vendors they speak with how they measure engagement.  Many vendors count simply logging into a wellness portal as engagement and boast about high engagement metrics for the duration of a program because one annual event like flu shots had high participation.

IndividualityWellable believes “true” measures of engagement should only include activities that meaningfully impact an employee’s health, such as going for a walk, visiting a yoga studio, or logging one’s nutrition.  Engagement is a great high-level measure of a program’s success if the measure remains pure and only includes meaningful activities.  Also, since effective wellness programs impact the daily lives of employees, engagement should be measured often.  At the very least, strong programs will show high levels of engagement on a monthly basis, not once a year.

Does a vendor think wellness is something an employee does or has done to them?
The hallmark of legacy wellness programs have been health risk assessments and biometric screenings.  Although great in concept, “know your number” and risk stratification programs are not worth much if employees do not act on this information.  Compared to an engaged user who tracks his steps every day, it is easy to see how not all engagement is created equal.  HRAs and screenings will only be effective if they result in meaningful behavior changes, and while it is important to measure and track participation rates in these services, it is more important to value the lifestyle changes and impacts from your program, as these behavior changes truly generate the benefits of employer wellness programs.  When an employee sees wellness as something they must do rather than something that is done to them, everyone will be better off for it.

How much does engagement cost?
It is perplexing to think that programs built upon tangible ROIs seem to forget that value drives ROI.  It is in the spirit of promoting high value wellness programs that considering the total cost of engagement is important.  Screenings and health risk assessments can often cost more than comprehensive annual tracking programs and require additional follow up costs (e.g., health coaching) to be effective.  As a standalone solution, these wellness services only engage an employee once a year yet cost more than engaging an employee for a full year through a more effective wellness technology platform.  Also, vendors like Wellable that integrate free apps into their program make these technology platforms even more cost effective, providing higher value and returns for their customers.  It is important to note that low cost doesn’t always equal high value, but that is something to discuss on another post.

Topics: Engagement

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