3 Things Learned From Penn State

lessons learnedI’ve discussed wellness programs many times in the past. I’ve given suggestions on types of programs, benefits to both the employer and employee, and even ways to implement wellness programs that can be beneficial for everyone. However, I have never suggested what Penn State attempted with its wellness program…that bombed big time!

According to Dan Oswald’s article, Penn State’s attempt at wellness program didn’t go so well, Penn State attempted to force its employees and faculty to participate in a wellness program that consisted of filling out an online health profile through WebMD and have a preventative medical exam conducted before a specific deadline. If the employees and faculty did not comply, Penn State threatened to withhold $100 from their paycheck each month until in compliance.

It really doesn’t sound all that bad, right? What’s wrong about filling out a little health questionnaire and going for a physical? A lot! The questionnaire consisted of several very personal questions about drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, pregnancy intentions of women, if the individual has feelings of depression, and other personal information that an employer has no need of knowing.

The university claimed that this wellness program, which consists of a questionnaire and a physical, would save them $63 million over the next five years in healthcare costs. Well, you can’t save $63 million if your employees refuse to participate in the program.

Penn State should have consulted with their employees and faculty first. Leadership is not dictating. Leadership is leading the company into the future, and if the company doesn’t consult with its employees (especially on a program that impacts them so much) then there is no future.

3 Lessons Learned:

  1. When creating any type of employee program – consult with your employees first.
  2. Do not add a built-in punishment for not participating; instead, add a built-in rewards system for those who do participate.
  3. Do what is right for the organization as a whole, not just what is right for the bottom line.

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