It can be challenging to get all or even a majority of employees engaged in a workplace wellness program. In fact, lack of interest is one of the main reasons that many wellness programs fail.
There is a universal underlying reason to explain lack of wellness engagement: the stages of change. Most wellness programs cater to individuals who are ready to take action on their health. However, up to 80% of employees are not ready for action, but instead need guidance through the stages of change to get there.
Why does this matter to brokers? Wellness programs are excellent tools to help your clients decrease healthcare costs and increase employee productivity—when they are done right. As a broker, wellness is an opportunity for you to add incredible value to your clients (and a great hook to get prospects in the door). This blog will explain the stages of change, how they apply to wellness and how you can use this knowledge to support your clients.
What are the stages of change?
The Stage Model of Change was developed by James O. Prochaska, Ph.D, Director of Cancer Prevention Research Center and Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Rhode Island. His research found that behavior change is a process of identifiable stages through which people pass.
The stages of change are:
- Precontemplation: For those in this stage, there is no intention to change behavior in the
foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware of their problems (health issues or bad habits).
- Contemplation: In this stage people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it, but have not yet made a commitment to take action.
- Preparation: This stage combines intention and behavioral criteria. Individuals in this stage are intending to take action in the next month and have unsuccessfully taken action in the past year.
- Action: In this stage individuals modify their behavior, experiences or environment in order to overcome their problems. Action involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires a considerable commitment of time and energy.
- Maintenance: Here people work to prevent relapse (such as regressing to unhealthy habits) and consolidate the gains attained during action.
Why does this matter for wellness programs?
Consider that up to 80% of employees are in pre-contemplation or contemplation stages. Interventions that don’t match the readiness of an employee are less likely to succeed.
That means that wellness content or initiatives aimed at taking action will intimidate or possibly even alienate them. In addition, interventions that try to move a person too quickly through the stages of change are more likely to create resistance that will impede behavior change.
However, the vast majority of wellness programs focus on taking action, with perhaps a little education mixed in. A major reason most wellness programs fail is that the program only reaches a small percentage of employees and alienates the rest.
How you can help clients and prospects
As a broker you have multiple options for using this knowledge to add value to client relationships:
- Use this as a reason to reach out to clients off-renewal. Ask if they have a wellness program and if they are running into challenges with employee engagement. Sit down for a strategy session and discuss the stages of change. Suggest they tailor content and initiatives to each stage, to
reach as many employees as possible.
- Add wellness to your repertoire of solutions available to your clients. Look for a vendor that provides a large library of content, addressing the most common health risks and tailored to various stages of change. Partnering with a third-party to offer a wellness program can also be a powerful sales tool, to take your pitch beyond insurance and focused on value.
Learn more about why wellness programs fail—and how you can use wellness as a prospecting and retention tool—in this quick guide.