As you may know, Xerox HR Services and the National Business Group on Health recently conducted a survey with 213 participating employers on emerging technologies and wellness. The survey explored technologies such as wearables, social media, mobile technology and gamification to determine current practices and future trends.

"Clearly, there are gaps to overcome in effectively integrating emerging technologies into workplace wellness initiatives." Alyssa Hodder, Director, Knowledge Resource Centre

“Clearly, there are gaps to overcome in effectively integrating emerging technologies into workplace wellness initiatives.”
Alyssa Hodder, Director, Knowledge Resource Centre

The full report will be available later this month. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at three surprising findings.

1. The ever-elusive ROI – Understanding the return on investment (ROI) of wellness programs has long been a challenge for employers, many of whom intuitively understand the link between healthy employees and productivity but struggle to tie this to company financials. And adding a layer of technology makes it even more challenging. For all of the various emerging technologies used, very few respondents are capturing or even trying to capture ROI. Only 28% are measuring or attempting to measure the ROI of wearable sensors; 23% for games and gamification; 16% for mobile technology—and a mere 9% for social media. Perhaps employers should be looking to employee engagement surveys rather than their balance sheets when it comes to wellness ROI, but it’s still important to measure success.

2. The right communication approach – While employers may have communications strategies in place for their wellness initiatives, most haven’t done much to find out if they’re using the right technology and channels for their particular employee populations. Just 5% say they have thoroughly assessed their employees’ preferences for various types of communication technologies, and 26% say they’ve done no assessment at all.

In other words: most employers don’t know if they’re communicating effectively to achieve the desired results, and most aren’t capturing or even attempting to capture ROI. So clearly, there are gaps to overcome in effectively integrating emerging technologies into workplace wellness initiatives, and understanding and demonstrating their value.

3. Maximizing support outside of work – The survey results did find that involving spouses/families in employee health initiatives is a secondary objective for employers. For example, more than half (55%) of employers using mobile technology are also targeting the spouse/partner, and 35% are doing the same for wearables.

But I still see this as an area with huge untapped potential. How much easier is it to stick to a nutritious meal plan if your entire family is eating the same food? Or to go to the gym regularly if your partner nudges you out of bed and goes with you? I saw firsthand how my husband stepped up (pun intended) the use of his Fitbit when friends invited him to participate in a weekly steps challenge. Long-term behaviour change is always difficult, but it’s easy to see how involving family and friends can help healthier behaviours stick.

What are you doing to integrate new technologies into your wellness programming?