Workplace Wellness: From Engagement to Empowerment

Employee empowerment has long been recognized as a powerful leadership strategy that can drive business performance improvement. Years ago I co-authored a book that illustrated the power of building employee empowerment into a corporate culture (Act Like An Owner: Building an Ownership Culture - John Wiley & Sons). So the question is: can empowerment drive health and wellbeing improvement for an employee population and become the catalyst for lower healthcare costs? I believe the resounding answer is yes!

To date most workplace wellness programs have focused on engagement; defined as tracking how compliant an employee is in completing a set of defined wellness oriented tasks within a set timeframe. In some cases engagement is simply defined as how often an employee accesses a wellness portal or website. Unfortunately the measurable results have been less than remarkable.

But what if we shift the focus from engagement to empowerment? Instead of trying to coerce people into performing tasks or "changing behavior", what if we empower them to lower their healthcare costs and improve their overall wellbeing? Then if an individual chooses not to engage there is no punishment, and no stigma that he or she is "out of compliance". The individual has just chosen to forgo the opportunity to save on their healthcare costs until another time when they are more prepared to engage.

So how do we empower people to lower healthcare costs? We simply help them become smart healthcare consumers. In my view, that means we help them to understand their prospective health risks, stay on top of preventive care, monitor lifestyle habits, and introduce cost transparency in health care as a starting point.

In business one of the fundamental conditions of empowerment is when employees believe they have the information and knowledge to make smart decisions. They won't act if they don't believe they can act appropriately. It's no different in health and wellbeing. The low-hanging fruit of risks, prevention, habits, and costs will help people to begin a journey of awareness, discovery, and empowerment with the promise of lower healthcare costs for everyone.

Bob Blonchek is CEO and President of Digital Health Innovations, Inc. and the creator of HealthJibe a connected, mobile consumer health empowerment solution.

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