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Want to build engagement? Think like a marketer. (Part 2: Relevance)

In the last installment, I put forth the question: “How do you foster high engagement in your program if you are solely focused on providing the content that the company wants to address?” I also suggested a skeptical hint at the answer: “You don’t.”

Why my skepticism? Because we know most companies are run by their bottom line, which can lead to tunnel vision about one or two areas that deserve focus and funding, and limiting your product to one or two areas is not likely to appeal to a broad employee base. Think about it…unless your company only employs marathon runners, you’ll need to offer more than a Step Challenge to generate world class engagement levels. The same holds true if the only benefit you provide is an employee assistance program or day care service. Each are incredibly important to the portion of your employee base that uses them, but the key word is “portion”. In order to get world class engagement, which for sake of argument is anything above 20% of your employee population, you must have a program that addresses the broad array of causes of absenteeism and presenteeism: physical health, mental health, parenting, eldercare, personal and professional relationships, and financial issues, for instance. In other words, your portfolio of programs (aka your benefit or wellness “product”) has to be relevant to your audience, and not only focus on what the company wants.

Spending as much time as I do in operations, I know that everything is easier said than done. So how do you go about building relevance in your program?

Step 1: Understand the causes of absenteeism or presenteeism in your specific workforce.

A great place to start for US companies, and the one that will make your CFO the happiest, is to look at the aggregate medical claim categories. If you know that 30% of your workforce suffers from diabetes, then Health Risk Assessments, physical challenges, etc., would be appropriate. Another technique, and one you want to clear with your legal team, is to assess the demographics of your workforce. If 90% of your workforce is under 25 years of age or older than 50, parenting-oriented solutions will only go so far. Another way to gain this knowledge is through surveying your employees to see what’s on their minds. That’s a great way to know if eldercare or financial issues are the main concerns affecting your workforce and its productivity.

Step 2: Understand what your employees’ day is like.

A program that focuses on live classroom training in the office during lunch is doomed to fail if your workforce is mainly remote or employee schedules are such that most workers grab a bite whenever in their day they find an opening. You need to provide programs that, for the most part, can be accessed on their schedule without interfering too much with work or personal time, and in a way that is convenient to them.

Step 3: Understand how your employees like to consume their information.

Do your employees typically go to an intranet site for information or resources about or for your company? Do they prefer talking with someone? Do they generally get most of their news from off of their smartphones, tablets, or computers at work or home? Do they discuss issues among their family members? To a certain extent, the answer to all of these questions is probably yes. That’s why you have to be everywhere, too.

If you do these three things, you’ll have enough information to put together a relevant portfolio of services built for your employees. In the next installment, we’ll talk about the next piece of the engagement puzzle, which is the incentive you offer.

More articles in this series

Written by: Doug Berkowitz, SVP of Operations at LifeSpeak