If you’ve ever thought about starting an employee wellness program for your organization, we have good news. Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s manager of wellbeing and health solution strategies, Kristen Lippencott, is now available to help employers with their wellness endeavors. She says Arkansas Blue Cross has helped groups with wellness initiatives in the past and recognized the need for a dedicated resource to work with employers.
Lippencott is enjoying her new role helping organizations understand their wellness needs and explore their many options. “I am working with groups now to help them understand the wellness services available to them and to support them as they implement their programs,” she says. Some may be seeking wellness vendors and setting up incentivized participation, while other organizations may just need help bringing in free resources and navigating the world of wellness webinars
Lippencott advises groups as small as those with a handful of employees to groups with thousands of covered lives. She says each client is different, but there are some basic pieces of advice that she’s found true across organizations.
Here are her 10 tips for building a wellness program employees will love:
- Adopt a whole-person approach. “When we talk about wellness and wellbeing, there are five pillars we talk about in our industry: physical, emotional, financial, career and community,” she says. “It’s not just getting people to exercise and eat better. It’s all those areas.” Lippencott says different aspects may be good entry points for different people. Someone may need guidance on saving for retirement, while someone else is most intrigued by mindfulness and meditation or motivated by a hydration challenge.Adopting a holistic approach has a host of benefits. “Healthcare historically has been focused on ‘fixing’ people after they reach the crisis. But if you can implement these wellness and wellbeing programs that include content on financial management or maternity education or how to sleep better—these small things along the way—sometimes you can prevent that crisis,” she says. “And in the long run, these programs don’t just help save healthcare costs, they also give you healthier, happier employees who want to work for you.”
- Offer programming your employees want. “Start by surveying your employees about their wellness and wellbeing interests. Then, look for resources that address those things your staff is most interested in,” Lippencott advises. “Let them tell you what kind of programming they want. People like to have choices and be heard.”
- Keep it simple. Start small. “Just getting started, the key is to make it simple and not try to do too much at one time,” Lippencott advises. “It’s too easy to overwhelm yourself and your employees by introducing too much change at once.” She says a phased approach makes it easier to build employee interest over time, while also making the wellness program much easier for you to launch.
- Use community resources. Lippencott says her single best tip is not to produce all the programming yourself, but to use the many excellent community resources available to organizations throughout the state. She says Arkansas Blue Cross works with many entities—including state agencies, nonprofits, hospitals and companies—to bring programming to their employees. “It makes sense because they already have community education programs developed that they’re trying to get people involved with, so it’s solid content that usually has no cost and is readily available,” Lippencott says. One such free community fitness resource she highly recommends for any business or organization in Arkansas is the annual Blue & You Fitness Challenge. It came about 20 years ago as a joint project by the Arkansas Department of Health, the Department of Human Services and Arkansas Blue Cross. The rewards-based, fitness activity competition among teams runs from March through May, with registration in January.
- Embrace webinars. Pre-pandemic, Arkansas Blue Cross’ wellness programming was largely homegrown and in-person, Lippencott explains. “We used to create everything in-house, and people would come to a conference room, or even drive to a different building to participate. When we switched over to digital, our engagement skyrocketed. It’s just so much easier to access now.” She says busy employees appreciate the flexibility webinars offer, and varied webinar content abounds.
- Lean into the experts. Expertise matters. “We had 200 employees register for a recent webinar on migraines,” she says. “We never would have had that kind of participation before if I’d said, ‘I’m going to talk about headaches.’ But when we invited a doctor, people showed up.”
- Look into wellness vendors to incorporate more sophisticated elements like incentives and challenges. When you reach the point of wanting a wellness portal or perks or financial rewards for wellness participation or personalized virtual wellness coaching, Lippencott recommends seeking third-party services that already have the digital infrastructure and content library you need. She can help groups navigate the offerings and choose market solutions that work best for them. Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield members and BlueAdvantage members already enjoy the robust Blueprint Wellness portal and coaching provided by Rally built into their plans.
- Be inclusive of all wellness journeys. People start at different points and have diverse needs and interests. Whether they are active or sedentary, introverts or extroverts, savers or spenders, Lippencott recommends giving employees equal validation for their wellness engagement. “If you have points or incentives, weigh them the same for different types of activities,” she suggests. “For instance, employees could earn 400 points by running four miles or by attending a webinar. You don’t have to be athletic to rack up points. It all counts, it’s all good.”
- Communicate constantly. Even after you’ve announced a program, or a new element of your wellness programming, keep reinforcing that with ongoing communications to promote the opportunities available. Lippencott says, “Someone might not be ready in August when you launch, but by October be looking for a gym or be interested in a new topic presented.”
- Be welcoming about wellness, never judgmental. Most of all, Lippencott says the tone of your communications can make all the difference in people’s participation. Encouragement is essential to keeping employees engaged. She recommends planning for and building in ways to offer them support and kudos for milestones (including for starting a challenge, not just finishing one). “Early in our program, people thought we were just telling them, ‘If you don’t exercise, you’re lazy,’” Lippencott says. “Since we’ve rolled out some of these more supportive wellness programs that meet people where they are, that are less directive, it seems to have opened our outlook and increased participation.”
“I’ve changed to thinking of it not as wellness and wellbeing, but as people development,” Lippencott says. “When you look at it that way, it makes it easier. And your people know that you’re looking at it that way, so it helps build and retain better talent, better employees.”
To connect with Lippencott about your wellness needs, ask your Arkansas Blue Cross account manager to set up an introduction.