Bridge the employee wellness gapWhat wellness vendors sell, and what employers buy, often contrasts with what employees want. Over the course of my career, I’ve heard directly from more than 100,000 employees via surveys and face-to-face interactions, and this is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned.

Using an unscientific approach, I’ve summarized some of the differences below. In the context of my observations regarding “Wellness promotes…,” I use “wellness” to refer to the wellness industry, including vendors, employers (purchasers), consultants, and thought leaders.

Wellness Promotes…

Employees Ask For…

Work/Life Integration Work/Life Balance
Resilience Programs Skilled Leaders
Metabolic Syndrome interventions Weight Watchers
Fitness Apps Gym Memberships
Gratitude Programs Gratitude
More websites Fewer websites
Recognition platforms Opportunity
Purpose Acceptance
Healthy Food More Choice
Headspace Personal Space
Financial Wellness More Money
Fight the always-on culture Scheduling flexibility
Health Incentives Less expensive health insurance
Health coaching Respect
Communicating Company “Values” Observing Company Values in Action
Self-Defense Instruction Safety and Security
Fun-at-Work Events Supportive Work Environments
Wellbeing Health

Employees can’t always get what they want, of course. Besides, often, they do: In the realms of financial wellness and work/life, some employers are accommodating employees by offering companywide minimum wage increases, student loan repayment assistance, and paid family leave.

And often, the two aren’t mutually exclusive: An employer can promote what they think employees need and provide what employees ask for.

Assess Your Assessment

If you’re not hearing from employees the items in the “Employees Ask For…” category, you may be dealing with a unique population of employees. Or maybe it’s time to assess your assessments.

For example, when employees are asked about the source of their job stress, many cite “role” issues, like:

  • They’re not clear about what’s expected of them
  • Different bosses give them contradictory direction
  • Their work role interferes with their personal-life role, and/or vice versa.

But a conventional wellness needs assessment won’t ask about the source of stress. It just asks how important stress management is to the employee, or whether they prefer resilience programs over mindfulness programs. Using a wellness needs assessment that’s old-school or not thoroughly thought-out, you’ll overlook what employees really want or need, especially if your organization

  1. Doesn’t host listening sessions to collect deeper, qualitative data, and/or…
  2. Fails to leverage other sources of wellness needs data, such as employee engagement surveys, turnover stats, training and development data, disability claims, and so forth.

Needs assessment has always been viewed as an essential step in the employee wellbeing process. How’s yours going?

Does your wellness strategy provide employees with what they are asking for?