The Five Most Dangerous Trends in Employee Wellness

The standing room only crowd evidenced the growing interest in employee wellness. Even the late afternoon time slot couldn’t keep docattendees at the 2012 SHRM National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia from cramming into the room to hear Brad Cooper, CEO of US Corporate Wellness speak on the topic of wellness.

The message was succinct and pointed as he highlighted The Five Most Dangerous Trends in Employee Wellness:

1.   Check the Box

In most of life, showing up is a good start, but not enough. Like the guy sitting on the exercise bike at the gym reading his magazine while leisurely pushing the pedals, effective employee wellness without strategic effort will have little impact. Lining up employees for a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), Lunch and Learns, or hanging wellness posters are good, but if they are simply tasks to be checked off they will not contribute to an effective employee wellness initiative. “Effective coaching,” remarked Cooper, is essential to moving beyond checking the box and finding success with an employee wellness program.

2.   Scarlet Letter

What happens after the HRA? In many organizations, employees evidencing health risks are often shamed. It may be private, but they are still shamed. While there is room for the stick approach, the options for extending the carrot should also be explored. Noting, the research of Dee Edington and the Health Management Research Center at the University of Michigan, Cooper extolled attendees not to single out the unhealthy and certainly not to forget to include healthiest employees in employee initiatives. [See also: How to Avoid the Scarlet Letter…]

3.   Robots ‘R Us

Cookie cutter wellness programs often fail because each employee is unique. Their current health, lifestyles and personalities dictate a personalized need for effective coaching. Computerized generalized messaging doesn’t hit the mark. Nor do pre-selected educational modules. Using the popularity of Facebook as a springboard, Cooper emphasized how wellness programs need to be all “about ME!”

4.   Quick Fix

C-Suite leaders looking for obvious ROI in the first year of a wellness initiative must curb their expectations. The first year typically does not produce a cost savings. It takes time. Borrowing from Steven Covey’s Four Quadrants, Cooper declares that employee wellness belongs in Quadrant II because it is “Important,” but the results may be “Non-Urgent” because poor health happens over time through neglect or poor choices.

5.   Do Nothing

“The cost of doing nothing is nothing,” noted Cooper. Doing something, however, must begin with commitment. Emphasizing commitment, he echoed the admonition to personalize the wellness initiatives. This personalization will include first steps that present reasonable personal goals for each employee. “They need to start with something.”

As I left the session I couldn’t help but wonder how many of my fellow HR professionals who heard this same presentation would be the very ones to fall prey to these dangerous wellness trends. Strategic thinking employers desiring to optimize health and employee wellness, will avoid these common, yet dangerous, trends sweeping the HR landscape.

It takes a commitment from the top of the organization to create a culture of wellness where an emphasis is placed upon results springing from an individualized approach for each employee. Without commitment and personalization the well-meaning employer is bound to join the herd blindly latching onto the dangerous trends in employee wellness.


This post was originally published on June 26, 2012 on my Jack In The Team Box HR and Leadership Blog.



About Jack W Bruce
Jack W Bruce Jr. is a novice blogger, husband and father of four, living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a lover of God, a reader and a wanna-be runner. Jack’s blogs include and Jack can also be found on LinkedIn at

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