28 Jan 2013 – Frank Hone –
With Open Enrollment now in the rear view mirror and health behavior change initiatives at signposts ahead, it’s time to take a close look at what can be done to ensure a smooth ride.
A simple truth is that too many organizations are using a “hope for change” approach, expecting that their employee outreach and program designs will automatically achieve meaningful impact and measurable outcomes in their population.
But there is nothing automatic about it.
In our experience with customers over the years, we’ve learned that good preparation, smart strategy and contingency planning are essential to ensuring a better likelihood for effective results. In doing this type of work, we see five specific areas that need to be fully developed and ready for deployment:
1. Communications Strategy and Plan
Everyone agrees that good communications is essential. There is a difference, however, in delivering an announcement versus “selling” the story. This is where consumer marketing ideas and approaches come into play. We need to find ways to build awareness, create interest, stimulate desire and promote action. It’s a lot like running an advertising campaign, and the messaging needs to stay fresh and purposeful.
2. Strategic Alignment of Vendor Groups
While health plans, wellness vendors, and other service providers generally operate well in their own silos, they don’t always excel at working well together. This leads to operational gaps that can zap the energy and inertia from outreach and intervention efforts. Creating more seamless alignments and handoffs is needed to maximize overall population impact.
3. Value Proposition to Participants
At the end of the day, the goal is to have a positive effect on individuals – changing their habits, improving their behaviors and altering their mindsets. This can’t be done well if it isn’t clear “what’s in it for them.” The industry does a poor job at expressing the consumer benefits and reasons-to-believe. When this is done well, marketing efforts can be far more effective.
4. Incentive Design and Delivery
More and more employers provide incentive rewards intended to drive participation for health improvement. While we see this as a temporary trend that will ultimately be replaced by stronger culture, better communications and more active leadership, it is a reality of today’s model. To be successful, the incentives should be designed to be relevant, to offer a lasting impression, and should be designed to be truly earned – this is not easy, but then, why give away money if it doesn’t lead to the desired result?
5. Metrics and Early Indicators of Impact
The areas of reporting and results are way too murky for a business discipline that is increasingly being challenged on its ROI merits. Employers need to be sure that they and they and their vendor partners are measuring multiple aspects of program impact at several points along the way. Target levels need to be established in advance, and contingency plans should be put into effect when they are not being met.
Now is the time to examine each of these five areas to assess your readiness. If they are not up to par, we can help. Our consulting business is oriented to fully preparing customers with engagement strategy in all phases of design, development and deployment of health and well-being improvement.
Now is the time to inject greater business discipline and to incorporate better and stronger consumer marketing techniques and approaches. Don’t wait until it is too late – make sure you’re programs are ready to launch before turning the ignition key.