Measuring Up: Connecting the Dots on Program Engagement


Determining the effectiveness of your wellness program is tricky business. Especially with so many variables, data points, and metrics to consider. It can be overwhelming even for those who work with spreadsheets and numbers every day. While there are a handful of measurements that everyone tends to gravitate toward when looking for answers, one metric seems to consistently take center stage: engagement.

There’s good reason for that. When we look at the factors that set a successful program apart from one that’s not so successful, the conversation usually begins with engagement. You may have spent weeks and months preparing a program that covers all the bases and fires on all cylinders, but all of that meticulous planning can fall apart in a flash if your employees don’t get involved in the program.

While nearly all of us agree that engagement is important, not everyone can seem to agree on what it actually means, or how to accurately measure it. If you’re finding yourself a bit confused on how to determine program engagement, don’t worry, it’s not just you. Here are a few key subtleties to consider.

Participation vs. Engagement

Contrary to what some may think, there’s a big difference between participating in the program and engaging in it. To some, registering for the program and logging in to your wellness portal or app counts as engagement, when in fact that’s a textbook definition of participation. Logging in is a good first step, but it doesn’t mean all that much if employees choose not to complete any program activities while they’re there.

It’s kind of like being in school. Just because someone showed up to class doesn’t mean they’re engaged. Did they pay attention to the lesson, jot down some notes, and contribute to the conversation? Or did they simply raise their hand, say ‘present,’ then promptly find a seat in the back and nod off? That’s the difference between participation and engagement. Engaged employees complete program activities and actively work toward a healthier lifestyle.

There are Levels to This

In a perfect world, each of your employees would see the program through to the end and complete every program requirement and activity you set for them. But engagement isn’t an all or nothing scenario, and it’s important to recognize different levels of engagement.

There are many employees who may complete certain activities but come up short in the end. But if you’re just starting out with a fresh wellness program, then maybe that’s enough to say ‘mission accomplished.’ Going from nothing to something is a good start after all, and perhaps raising awareness and getting employees to complete the basics is enough to say the program had good engagement numbers.

On the other hand, if your program has been going on for several years, you’re probably going to want to see higher completion rates. Especially for required activities and actions like health coaching and challenges, which require a deeper level of engagement to complete. As the kids say, there are levels to this game—and success largely depends on the goals you’ve set for the program.

Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish with your wellness program—whether it’s to improve health outcomes, address specific chronic conditions, or simply raise awareness—engagement plays a significant role in determining your success. Learning how to accurately measure this crucial metric—and focusing on program completion rates instead of log ins—can help you make better decisions for your program and continue building your healthy culture.

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