4/8 By Rianne Meijerman, Head of User Onboarding & New Business Development 


The global health crisis has shown how important it is for employers to foster a caring culture through their wellbeing programs. In this blog, we look at why many employee ‘health checks’ are failing, and we share tips on how to make your employee wellbeing program a success.


Over the past few months, I have spoken with dozens of CEOs, chief HR officers and business leaders about the results they are seeing with their companies’ wellbeing strategies.

From these discussions, it is clear that there is an ‘unmet need’ around wellbeing. The substantial investments that many organizations are making in employee health do not seem to pay off as much as organizations would have hoped.

At the same time, everyone agrees that investing in employee health makes sense: companies are keen to turn wellbeing into a strategic asset, rather than an ‘operational initiative’ to control the cost of sick leave.

There is a definite sense of urgency to tackle this challenge.

The big question leaders ask is: ‘how can we do this successfully and really make an impact?’


Here are some of the most-cited reasons why employee health programs fail to deliver the expected outcomes.

“Only for the selected few”

Many organizations prioritize health checks for senior leaders and top talent. As a result, only a tiny percentage of employees see an improvement in their health and wellbeing.

“Not designed for the employees who need it the most”

While a general health check-up can be useful for all employees, people who are already ‘healthy’ do not consume the bulk of their organization’s health-related costs. Wellbeing programs need to be designed for a diverse range of employees; in particular, the employees who would really benefit from health improvement.

“Too generic”

Organizations find that one-size-fits-all health advice does not work. A corporate wellbeing program needs to be personalized to meet individual needs.

“Not enough focus on mental health”

If mental health is still treated as a taboo subject, will only aggravate the already steep rise in employee health issues around stress and burnout. Any program should contain at least both physical and mental health aspects.

“Poor metrics”

Too often, management has to rely on feelings or perceptions to measure the impact of employee wellbeing programs. A lack of hard metrics, however, can lead to initiatives losing focus.

“Leaders do not contribute”

Sometimes, there is the belief that the HR function has to take full ownership of an organization’s wellbeing program. The result? Managers take a back seat, and information is not communicated consistently within teams.

“Treated as a one-off initiative”

It has become trendy for organizations to run activities like ‘wellbeing weeks’. While these initiatives are well intended, the reality is that employee health can only be improved as part of an ongoing, multi-year strategy.

“Culture does not support the wellbeing approach”

Stressors like poor performance management or long working hours are barriers to good health. When an organization’s culture is not supportive of wellbeing, employees do not see their company’s wellbeing program as genuine and therefore it does not achieve the desired results.


People are your most important asset, so investing in their whole health, both mental and physical, makes sense. Here are some recommendations for you to make your wellbeing strategy a success. 

# 1 – Assess the status quo: your current employee wellbeing activities and their impact 

Planning a new wellbeing strategy? Naturally, this will require you to make an investment.

A good start is to make sure you have transparency over all the localized activities already happening in your organization today. See what is already there.

Understand how much budget is being spent and which initiatives are really having an impact.

Across different parts of your organization, you might be doing general health check-ups, mental health apps, yoga classes and food courses.

The combined spend might be bigger than you think.


# 2 – Choose where you want to focus your future investment in employee wellbeing

Understanding your employees’ pain points, defining what success looks like, selecting the right partners and measuring the outcomes, will help you plan the investment needed and track the value on investment over time.

A wise approach is to allocate resources to those areas that deliver the biggest impact.

Particularly important is to serve the needs of the employees most at risk of ill health.

In my conversations with HR and business leaders, I hear that a minority of employees (approximately 20% of headcount) usually consume most of the healthcare-related costs in a company.

These employees may suffer from chronic or lifestyle-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. Additionally, they might need dedicated mental health or financial health support.

The exact ways to tackle the needs of this 20% will vary from organization to organization. Here, collaboration with key partners, such as company doctors and corporate wellbeing vendors, is key to finding the right approach.


# 3 – Go beyond the needs of the selected few

A wellbeing program cannot be successful unless it addresses the needs of a wide population of employees at all levels.

This requires financial resources.

If you encounter pushback from different parts of your organization, it is best to frame the dialog in terms of the opportunity cost of not making the required investments!

Then you can work with your partners of choice to co-create the business case to measure the impact on health outcomes as well to further validate your assumptions concerning the expected value on investment.


# 4 – Personalize your wellbeing offering to meet individual needs

Lifestyle, genes, work environment, family life, mental health, stress… there are several key dimensions that shape the health of each individual.

A personalized approach is therefore essential to promote employee participation in your wellbeing program. This should start with mapping an employee’s current mental and physical health by measuring the most important data points, and then providing the employee with the right tools to improve their health through coaching and guidance.

Engaged employees who actively participate in the program for the long term are a precondition for success.

Schedule a demo call with Ancora Health

We can help you design a wellbeing program with the following components: 

  • Data-driven, so solutions can be tailored to individual needs
  • Dedicated coaching focused on supporting the desired behavior change
  • Progress measurement to motivate and track impact.

Schedule a demo

# 5 – Make it actionable for employees

While it is a good idea to provide your employees with information on their health risks, you cannot assume that this alone will lead to the desired adoption of healthy behaviors.

Some might even be overwhelmed or demotivated by the amount of information provided.

Thankfully, new digital health tools, such as the use of tele-consults and app-based coaching are enabling ‘mass personalization’ and are a great way to offer impactful interventions, leading to positive health outcomes for both the employee and their organization.


# 6 – Promote good mental health

It is critical to show that mental health can be talked about openly and that support is available through your wellbeing program. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 42% of employees have reported a decline in mental health.

Employees should be able to share their experiences in a safe environment with their managers and peers.

Managers should be trained to identify the ‘early warning’ signs around mental health, so that they can proactively handle issues within their own teams. (Company doctors can play a key role in providing this training.)


# 7 – Leverage leaders to communicate your wellbeing program

For real impact across the whole organization, the dialog about wellbeing – and your organization’s supports available for employees – should happen on an ongoing basis.

In this, it is also critical that company leaders and ambassadors of various parts of the organization drive awareness and action themselves. They are the role models and should show that it is an integral part of the company’s strategy.

This will allow your employees to be informed about your organization’s wellbeing offering, as well as to share their needs and ask questions.


# 8 – Make it measurable

It is worth spending time to think through what success looks like for your organization and determine how you will measure that.

What works well is to have a combination of hard and soft metrics with the aim of tracking the reach and engagement of your wellbeing program across your organization.

Consider using quarterly pulse surveys along with financial data to quantify your value on investment.

Also, it would be good to ensure your vendor is able to measure the impact of your employee wellbeing program on health outcomes. Your vendor may be able to provide you with dashboards to measure the impact of changes to your organization’s health along with predictive analytics on where the biggest risks are.

# 9 – Go for a long-term approach

Changing behaviors is hard and it takes time for change to be sustainable.

By stimulating healthy habits through your employee wellbeing program and making it a long-term thing, you avoid the risk of stop-start initiatives.

To ensure the new behaviors stick, you might also consider making it attractive for the employee’s family members to participate in the program as well. If healthy habits are promoted both at work and at home, the chances of success are much higher.

# 10 – Think outside the box

Your organization is unique, so your wellbeing practices should reflect that.

Your corporate wellbeing supplier can be your partner in designing and co-creating health programs and lifestyle therapeutics that will have a big impact on your organization.

You could also talk to your health insurance partner and/or company doctor to brainstorm about the best way to set up your employee wellbeing program.

A customized approach

At Ancora, we spend time to design a bespoke program for every customer.

For one of our customers, we teamed up with other vendors to offer employees an elective wellbeing offering. Employees had the freedom to choose among health checks, one-on-one coaching or team-based health workshops. Or they could enroll in a combination of all three.

This flexible approach led to extremely positive feedback from the employees.

At another customer, employees are being offered access to our preventive health programs at a heavily subsidized price. Employees make a small contribution and the employer pays for the bulk of the cost, which keeps it affordable. When employees embark on their health programs, it is motivating for them to know that there is true ‘skin in the game’.

    Schedule a demo with us

    # 11 – Get your culture enablers in place

    Last but not least, it is critical that you prioritize wellbeing at the highest level of your organization to ensure it becomes a defining part of your culture.

    Work is often the place where people spend the biggest part of their day. And expectations are rising. Increasingly, employees find it important that their employer fosters a culture of health and wellbeing.

    The benefit of a health-driven culture change is that employees feel genuinely cared for, and they feel passionate about the wellbeing of their colleagues and customers, too.

    And that, for sure, means good business.

    If you are truly driving an inclusive culture of care, your people will go that extra mile and your business will reap the benefits.

    As one of Europe’s leading preventive health specialists, Ancora offers a range of health programs for employers. Our mission is to empower people to take ownership of their health, wellbeing and performance by combining the power of the most advanced science, data and technology into a personalized program that delivers positive health outcomes for each employee.

    Interested in a free demo call with us? Click here to get in touch.


    Subscribe to our mailing list to be among the first to know about our latest blogs.

    Learn how Ancora handles your personal data in our privacy policy