Four Success Factors

Richard Earle, PhD, and Derek Lee, DC
January 07, 2008
Written by Richard Earle, PhD, and Derek Lee, DC
Building a high-yield corporate wellness clinic.
Companies fund on-site wellness services with one or both of the following criteria in mind:
“Employee Relations + 20 Per Cent”

38Companies want employees to believe that “This is a good place to work.  They have our interests at heart.”  Most such companies also hope that the same old 20 per cent of employees who usually pick up a useful idea in lunch-and-learn sessions will find something to support their well-being.  The budget is usually low, as are employee attendance, health benefit and leverage against company overhead.

These firms are more strategic.  While they understand that health is a generalized state, they focus on health as an applied capacity, pertaining to employees’ ability to do (and enjoy) specific activities, notably the work activities that keep their businesses healthy.  Their wellness programs are managed, and financially supported to protect and leverage their most costly asset.  On the balance sheet, salary and benefits typically account for 70-plus per cent of expenses.  While they may allow for a two-year ramp-up period in a wellness investment, they do expect leading indicator “success stories” within six months and lagging indicators of results (e.g., drug benefit costs) within the second year.

In this article, we integrate our insights about the stumbling blocks and the stepping stones for your long-haul success as a wellness clinic director, especially on how to best accommodate the above corporate criteria.  A focus is on serving today’s stress-driven demand for “wellness that works” in a way that delivers results both in employee morale and on the balance sheet.

Based on 26 years’ workplace achievement, the Canadian Institute of Stress trains and collaborates with seasoned health professionals internationally such as Derek Lee, DC, who continues to grow the corporate clinic arm of his practice in Toronto, Ontario.

For a corporate clinic to show positive results and growth, its benefits must be simultaneously created for each of three stakeholders – employees, the company, and the clinic director and staff.  Many clinic directors have seen their progress stall, then evaporate by becoming known as either “a company man” or as “siding with employees.”  We try to stay balanced and on track by focusing on, and continuously improving year-over-year, win-win results for all parties (Figure 1).

Bear in mind, results don’t speak for themselves.  Your commitment to tracking stakeholders and then communicating results, both statistical and testimonial, is as essential as are your professional standards.

Our accompanying clinic flow chart is not rocket science.  It supports success because it minimizes the top enemy of running a business – surprises.  As reflected in Figure 2, here are several principles which, when practised, will create both comfort for and support from your corporate client.
Since, for business, health is an applied capacity, the clinic framework should focus on how specific health improvements can show up in work performance.  Discover the company’s priorities.
So, as much as possible, propose your pilot program to be assessed in those terms.
Be prepared to serve the whole (working) person, not just those parts your discipline addresses.
Work within a systematic flow chart … from employee awareness and motivation, through assessment, triaging, service delivery, quality monitoring, and results evaluation.
Use tools that are relevant, credible, proven, intuitively understandable and agreed upon by all parties.

Wellness programs most often under-perform when the health professional is on a mission to enlighten clients about what would really be best for them, forgetting about the in-company priorities, buy-in and budget implications.

Employees request stress programming three times over nutrition or exercise.  In response, Air Canada named our new on-site health promotion initiative the Stress and Lifestyle Awareness Program.  Employee motivation and participation have exceeded expectations.  Word-of-mouth marketing of any clinic is essential.  Far more employees talk about stress, and finding solutions for it, than about all other wellness topics combined.  And, in 2004, 64 per cent of Canadian companies rated stress as their top health concern.  Since only 32 per cent of them were taking action, strategic opportunities clearly remain.

Rather than viewing your corporate clinic simply as an extension of your private practice, operate it as a stand-alone service.  As such, it will provide you with the kind of rewards, insights, relationships and stimulation to grow professionally that is available only to pioneers.

Workplace wellness services will continue to grow in attractiveness to today’s corporation.  The all-win opportunities are significant.•

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