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How to Thoroughly Evaluate Your Workplace Wellness Program

By Madison Cofield
Published November 26, 2014

How to Thoroughly Evaluate Your Workplace Wellness Program

Evaluating your wellness program is a critical step in ensuring the continued success and viability of the program. The ladies in our department can often be quoted as saying that a wellness evaluation helps you, “reduce the inefficiencies of your program, reuse the best practices that have developed, and recycle sound wellness strategies after they have been retooled.”

It is true that a quality program evaluation produces irreplaceable knowledge about the efforts of the wellness team but, with our full plates it is often impossible to find the time for a comprehensive and quality evaluation.

Below, we share some workplace wellness program evaluation tips that will not only save you time but also produce a quality product.

Evaluating Your Workplace Wellness Program Should Begin During the Program Planning Process …

Contrary to popular belief, evaluating your workplace wellness program should begin during the program planning process not at the end of your program year. Knowing what you intend to measure before you measure it will help ease the daunting task of program evaluation. Thus, before your program begins, it is important to define your goals and your objectives in a format that you know is measurable. Knowing your evaluation plans in advance will also help you identify the baseline data related to any program element you may evaluate (participation, satisfaction, health improvement, etc…)

Evaluating Your Program Does Not Require an Advanced Degree or Statistical Expertise

There are many simplistic ways to evaluate your program that range in complexity, analytical skill required, and length of time for the analysis.  I was introduced to these methods during my Certified Wellness Program Manager training via The Chapman Institute and I found them to be very helpful and concise in methodology. If you are interested in reading an article written by Larry Chapman that discusses eight of these methods then access “Methods for Determining Economic Return” through an online database that houses The Art of Health Promotion Journal. Or send us a quick message and we can provide you with an electronic version.

Always Consider the Audience

During the evaluation process and when you are preparing the evaluation summary you should always consider the audience that will be reviewing the results. Will it be your wellness committee? Will the reviewers primarily be your Executive Team? Will you share these results with your employees? This consideration will greatly impact the way your evaluation results are presented. For example, your Executive Team may need a quick, visual interpretation of the results (see attached for a sample executive dashboard). Whereas, your employees may not want to understand the deeper details of the program but they may want a condensed delivery.

Don’t Neglect Tough to Quantify Data

Although some outcomes of a workplace wellness program are tough to quantify, don’t neglect the impact of including them in your evaluation process. Testimonials are one great example of a wellness outcome that is difficult to assign a dollar value to; however, testimonials can often be invaluable and appeal greatly to Executive Leadership and an organization with a highly paternalistic culture. In addition to testimonials, being able to prevent a heart attack, stroke, diabetes diagnosis, or cancer occurrence adds enormous value to a wellness program. Yet like testimonials, the impact is nearly impossible to quantify because you cannot accurately account for this cost avoidance scenario.

Evaluate the Outputs

When evaluating your wellness program you should consider not only outcomes, but outputs of the program. Ask yourself whether your program has contributed in a significant way to the organization and the organizational culture. Has your program empowered employees to encourage healthy behaviors within their family unit? Have your wellness efforts reinvigorated company camaraderie? Has your wellness program added goodwill to your company image and has this impacted the talent you now attract?

Define the Data You Have Access To

When planning and completing a program evaluation it is important to remember the type of health claim data that you may or may not have access to. A fully insured employer will have access to limited data and less significant data than an employer who is self-insured. This limited data will also limit the depth and range of your evaluation and analysis. Also, if you as the employer change health insurance carriers frequently, then your access to data will be significantly inhibited.

Maintain Integrity and Objectiveness

While completing your evaluation be sure to maintain the integrity and objectiveness of the evaluation. Meaning, as easily as it is to focus attention on the positive success of the program, it is equally essential to identify the negative aspects of your program. Once identified, it is important to present an improvement plan in conjunction with your valuation. This realistic perspective of the workplace wellness program helps to enable program growth and sustainability. So don’t shy away from areas where you or your team fell short, highlight them, and work to improve their operation and impact.

Evaluate, Evaluate and Evaluate Again

Most wellness practitioners make the mistake of completing program evaluations at one point in time—once the program comes to a close. Keep in mind that frequent evaluation, no matter how formal or informal, can provide you more real-time, accurate, and pertinent perspective on your program successes and failures. With this in mind, consider evaluating each individual wellness challenge or initiative as it concludes, always take the opportunity to engage an employee in a conversation regarding the wellness program, and be observant (it is often an underutilized evaluation tool).

Happy Evaluating!

Madison Cofield is a St. Augustine native who joined The Bailey Group after graduating from Stetson University with a Bachelor’s in Business Management. Cofield progressed into the Director of Health Promotion role after earning her Master’s in Business Administration from the University of North Florida in 2012. She currently works with TBG's Small Group clients as an Account Executive.