Why Wellness Programs Are No Cure for Poor Employee Culture



I hear it all the time.

HR worries over what they see in the workplace. Managers complain they can’t find and keep good people. Turnover rates are high. Engagement is low.  

On top of this, upper management is providing directives like, “Maybe we should launch a new wellness program to boost employee morale.” 

But red flags like high turnover and low performance signal a deeper issue. An unhealthy corporate culture and poor employee morale point to a foundation that’s not stable. Repairing your company’s employee culture requires an ongoing strategy to enhance the many touchpoints that drive employee engagement. It’s what differentiates a company that’s thriving from one that’s just getting by.

There’s an abundance of evidence that shows employers can be doing a better job. Gallup started measuring job engagement among Americans in 2000 and the findings have been consistent ever since: Less than one-third of us are engaged in our jobs. Small wonder then, that 51 percent of all U.S. workers (and a whopping 60 percent of Millennials) are looking for new jobs at any given point in time.

Wellness Programs are Only Part of the Solution

When the employee culture is one where trust and commitment are in short supply, rolling out a wellness program is likely to be greeted with eye-rolls. Disengaged workers will be skeptical of HR-led initiatives that may be perceived as their employer’s self-serving effort to boost company profits, or shift healthcare costs, rather than focusing on employee well-being.  

What matters more is a caring employee culture that promotes job satisfaction, a collaborative environment, recognition for doing the job well and reinforcement of individual contributions. That’s how you create an emotional connection with workers.  And that connection is what helps attract the type of talent you want to employ going forward. 

That kind of connection is not built through HR alone. HR may be responsible for setting the agenda and creating the tools for programs to support a positive working environment, but it’s up to your leaders to drive and execute the cultural agenda. They must set the example and walk the talk. 

You can’t simply wish for a high performing culture.  They must be built purposefully to foster desired behaviors.   Together, management and HR need to improve their insights and set the stage for a stronger cultural foundation where engagement is fostered and everyone thrives. Then initiatives that focus on personal well-being will be better received from a population that trusts its employer and cares about both organizational and personal success.



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