Wellness Programs: Get Results or Go Away

If you haven’t been keeping tabs over the last few months, there has been some increasing friction between the EEOC and the corporate world over a seemingly harmless set of programs focusing on employee wellness. Note that this is primarily focused on health and wellness programs, not those targeting financial wellness.

While this has been frustrating for those affected, it does provide an impetus for companies that is long overdue. In the long run companies will focus more on wellness programs that actually bring results, not just on checking the obligatory box on a list of employee benefit offerings.

Wellness by the Numbers

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health survey:

  • 94% of firms with over 200 employees offer wellness programs
  • 11% of those organizations have penalties for employees that do not complete all required health management procedures
  • 9% of large companies penalize employees for not meeting specific biometric outcomes (BMI, cholesterol, etc.)

Wellness is here to stay, with the majority of companies believing that offering these types of options will help to lower insurance costs over time.

The Battle for Wellness

Orion Energy Systems was a typical organization with regard to its wellness program. It required health-related actions from its employees and used incentives/penalties to encourage the behaviors consistent with its wellness program goals. But it didn’t turn out so well.

Orion instituted a wellness program that required medical examinations…  When employee Wendy Schobert declined to participate in the program, Orion shifted responsibility for payment of the entire premium for her employee health benefits from Orion to Schobert.  Shortly thereafter, Orion fired Schobert.

For reference purposes, Orion meets the “large company” criteria in the Kaiser report cited above.  Here’s what happened next:

Orion Energy Systems violated federal law by requiring an employee to submit to medical exams and inquiries that were not job-related and consistent with business necessity as part of a so-called “wellness program,” which was not voluntary, and then by firing the employee when she objected to the program, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed recently.

In case you’re wondering, Orion is not the only organization that falls into this category. Honeywell International also had an opportunity to face the ire of the EEOC for similar reasons.

The Outlook on Wellness

The EEOC has just released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) with regard to this complex issue. This breakdown by the Jackson Lewis law firm is a great look at some of the key areas of the proposal, but one piece in particular stuck out for me (emphasis mine):

“The NPRM requires that if an employee health program seeks information about employee health or medical examinations, the program must be reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease. Employees may not be required to participate in a wellness program, and they may not be denied health coverage or disciplined if they refuse to participate.”

Believe it or not, after all of the time, legal battles, and other resources expended on the world of wellness, it comes down to whether or not the program is actually going to promote health or prevent disease. We actually have to measure these initiatives and not just put blind faith in their ability to make our employees and organizations healthier. If that sounds a bit harsh, I’d advise you to check out this discussion on the results of wellness (or a lack thereof). On the other hand, companies like Johnson & Johnson have been more successful.

There are other aspects, such as voluntary participation and limits on incentives, but I think it’s just one more push in the direction of measuring everything and only pursuing those that are going to deliver results. Not everything that is measurable matters, but everything that matters should be measurable.

About the Author:

Ben Eubanks is an associate HCM Analyst at the Brandon Hall Group, a preeminent research and analyst firm covering Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources.

How to Beat Creative Fatigue in E-Learning Design

Are you tired of building the same courses over and over again? Sure you may get to build a hundred courses, but they’re essentially the same course built a hundred times. The result is that many of the courses look the same and they don’t provide the opportunity to expand your course design skills.

Today I’d like to offer a few tips on how you can get out of the hundred course rut.

Build Better E-learning by Making Time to Do Something Different

Many organizations allow their employees to have some free time to hack together ideas or work on other types of projects. I spoke to one elearning manager that lets his employees spend a few days each month on personal projects. His rationale is that it gives them “time to unwind and play around with ideas.”

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses by doing something new

Most organizations probably won’t make time for you to “mess around with ideas” so you need to find ways to get the time. We often used the team meeting time to brainstorm ideas. For example, one challenge was how to navigate a course if all you could do was drag and drop objects and couldn’t click anywhere on the screen. Another was to come up with 100 analogies we could apply to our training programs: climbing stairs, climbing mountains, going down a road, entering a building’s lobby, etc. We then used some of the ideas as models for our course designs.

The main point in the activity was to think about things in a different way and to prototype ideas. They may not always be used, but they will help develop your skills.

Build Better E-Learning Through Inspiration

As you know, I am a big fan of the weekly elearning challenges because they do exactly what I’m talking about above. They’re a springboard to playing with ideas. We present simple challenges to help nudge you a bit. They’re not intended to be big courses or even all that elaborate.

Some people put together complete ideas and some just build quick prototypes. The main goal is to get you to try something different than what you normally do at work. Through that process you find new ideas and production techniques.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses by finding inspiration

Even if you don’t participate in the weekly challenges, I still encourage you to look at what’s being done. They’re a great source of inspiration. You may pick up some neat ideas that can be applied in your own elearning courses. All of the participants get the same instructions but the results are always different. It’s nice to see the diverse ideas.

Build Better E-Learning Through Mimicry & Iteration

All of the Articulate community managers do a great job building courses. However, if I were to look at the demos they build without knowing who built them, odds are that I’d be able to match the course author to the course. And the reason is because we all tend to have our own style.

That means our course screens tend to look similar. The layouts, colors, fonts, and object sizes all tend to be the same. That’s not a bad thing. But build the same type of course a hundred times exactly the same way can cause some creative fatigue.

By stepping away from our own style and attempting to mimic the work of others we become better course designers. I recommend collecting elearning courses, multimedia examples, or visual design ideas that you find inspiring and then setting some time to practice recreating them.

  • Step 1: Try to replicate what the content creator did. This helps you figure out what they did and how you’d do the same thing with your authoring tools. Don’t worry about copyright or anything like that. This isn’t for public consumption. Instead it’s for your personal development.
  • Step 2: Once you have decent replication, start to iterate. Pretend that a client told you they wanted this project redone. What would you do? From there you’ll be able to transform the idea that inspired you to something that’s uniquely yours. And most likely it’ll look a lot different than what you would have done on your own. I usually look for color themes, font pairings, and visual design ideas like how shapes and lines are used. I’ll create a few different layouts based on the original design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses practicing new techniques

Here are some of the places I go to find inspiration:

  • E-Learning Examples: a good collection of all sorts of elearning and interactive multimedia examples that could inspire course design ideas.
  • Articulate demos: the elearning challenges have produced over 1000 different examples. You can find a complete list here. But we also feature a few of the more popular ones and other demos in our examples section.
  • News multimedia: with every major news event there’s usually some multimedia composed to explain it. USA Today and NY Times (links to examples) usually have some good demos.
  • Museums: many of the large museums have interactive tours and demos. Here’s one from the Smithsonian on how to build a sod house and an interactive tour of the Louvre.
  • Design sites: I’m not a graphic artist but I can glean ideas from those who are. I like to look at some of the portfolios on sites like Dribbble and Loviv. I often get ideas on layouts, colors, and UI.

If you don’t want to get stuck building the same course over and over again, challenge yourself to find inspiration in the work of your peers. Make some time to connect with others and if you have time, join one of the weekly challenges. I’d love to see what you do.

About the Author:

Tom Kuhlman is host of The Rapid E-Learning Blog and has over 20 years experience in the training industry. He’s developed hundreds of hours of elearning and managed elearning and training projects at Capital One, Washington Mutual, and Weyerhaeuser. Tom currently runs the user community for Articulate, with a focus on building a passionate community of rapid elearning developers.

Measuring Learning’s Impact: Stop Making Excuses and Just Get Started

Stop making excuses for not measuring the impact of learning and just get started. This was the consensus among the panelists at a recent Skillsoft Perspectives Conference in Orlando, Fla. The panelists were Laurie Bassi of McBassi & Associates, Jay Jamrog of i4cp, Kendall Kerekes of KnowledgeAdvisors, Patti Phillips of ROI Institute and myself, with Kieran King from Skillsoft moderating. We had 1,000 in the audience, a provocative subject and a great panel.

King set the stage by sharing research from Jack and Patti Phillips showing CEOs want to see the impact and ROI of their learning investments but instead receive only activity and satisfaction data (confirmed by research from Bersin and many others).

So, why aren’t learning leaders measuring impact and sharing with their CEOs? After all, this is not exactly a revelation. According to a survey by Cushing Anderson in May, the leading reasons are lack of resources, lack of support from the CEO, lack of funding and lack of skills.

My take: these are all just excuses which strongly suggest that many of today’s CLOs (or vice presidents of training) should be replaced.

I did not have the resources or funding I wanted at Caterpillar, and I never asked the CEO to support my measurement or impact strategy. I also came to my position with no knowledge of training, let alone the knowledge or skills to measure impact. These limitations did not stop me from putting a measurement strategy in place, and they should not stop you either.

To begin, there are numerous books and workshops available to help anyone new to the field or to measurement. And there are many great consultants and providers to help you (like the panel members). Even if you cannot afford hired help, you can quickly come up to speed on the basics.

Next, you need to adopt a management mindset and resolve to do the best you can with whatever resources you have. Forget perfection: perfect data, absolutely consistent data and comprehensive data. Stop waiting for the new LMS or for a bigger budget or for a dedicated staff person, or a completely automated system. Start with what you have and where you are.

Focus. What are your key programs in support of the key goals of your organization? Start there even if it is only for one program. You can use a sample of participants to gather the required data to estimate impact or you can use a survey. This does not have to be expensive or a major undertaking. You can make a start.

Adopting a management mindset with regard to measurement of impact also entails working with the sponsor upfront to agree on the expected impact of the initiative and on the roles and responsibilities of each party (training and the sponsor) to achieve the desired impact.

Once you have an agreed-upon plan with the sponsor, then you will need to manage execution on a monthly basis. Reaching agreement with the sponsor on expected impact requires NO additional resources, just a little time. And monitoring progress against plan on a monthly basis can be done on an Excel spreadsheet (which is what we did at Caterpillar).

Bottom line, the panel agreed there is a lot you can do to measure and manage impact. So, stop making excuses and just get started, even if that means starting to manage and measure impact on just a few select initiatives or even only one.

Don’t wait for new systems or technology or a bigger budget, and don’t wait to be asked for impact. Start now to whatever extent you can, and look forward to improving in the future.

About the Author:

David Vance is the former president of Caterpillar University, which he founded in 2001. Until his retirement in January 2007, he was responsible for ensuring that the right education, training and leadership were provided to achieve corporate goals and efficiently meet the learning needs of Caterpillar and dealer employees.

Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer

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