The 5 Pillars of Employee Behavior Change: Pillar #2

October 17, 2017

You have high hopes for your employee wellbeing program—you’re going to motivate and inspire your employees to eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking… well, the list goes on and on. And while you may have good intentions, if you’re like the majority of HR and benefits leaders, you’ve probably seen a bit of a gap between your hopes and reality. It can be hard to get the numbers you’d like to see for enrollment and participation—not to mention lasting engagement and long-term behavior change.

Part of the problem is that many programs neglect the science of behavior change, which minimizes their chances of long-term success.

In this series, we’ll explore the five pillars of behavior change that will help you design an effective employee wellbeing program. You can find the post on Pillar #1 here.

The second pillar focuses on the topic of choice. Let’s explore why it’s essential to let your employees choose the focus of their wellbeing program and how to engage with it.

Pillar #2: Let employees design their own wellbeing program

Traditional wellness programs tend to be paternalistic—they tell employees exactly which habits they need to focus on, like quitting smoking or changing their diet in a specific way. Or worse—they only target a so-called “high-risk” portion of the population. This approach is flawed in two ways: First, it alienates employees who aren’t motivated by the particular focus of the program, and second, it risks making the employees who are included feel guilty and ashamed. And guilt and shame are simply not factors that help people make lasting behavior changes.

When approaching health and wellbeing programs, it’s important to keep in mind that individuals, at the end of the day, are the experts about themselves. Therefore, it’s important for your health and wellbeing program goals to be in alignment with the individual participants’ goals. This alignment ensures employees are intrinsically motivated to act.

Research backs this up, showing that by letting your employees choose how they will tackle their health and wellbeing goals, you boost their chances of success.

Why is this? Well, when you allow employees to choose the main components of their wellbeing program—the habit they’d like to improve, the frequency at which they do it, the coach they work with—you facilitate the shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation and increase the chances of helping them design something that works well within their own complex lives and make it more likely to achieve lasting behavior change.

Want to read about all five pillars of employee behavior change in one place? Be sure to download a copy of The 5 Pillars of Employee Behavior Change eBook. Grab your copy here!

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