The Talent Landscape Is Changing. Are You?

Two things are happening in parallel in today’s workplace that are challenging human resources and learning professionals to reevaluate their approach. First, there aren’t enough highly qualified people to go around these days. This month, McKinsey and Co. reported that nearly 40 percent of U.S. employers are struggling to find skilled workers. Second, the high-quality talent that is currently powering companies forward has no qualms about leaving if they don’t feel like their needs are beings met, said Mika Nash, academic dean for Champlain College Online’s Continuing Professional Studies division.

An ample paycheck isn’t enough; it may not even be the difference-maker. Now more than ever, employees want to know organizations will invest in them, and they will walk away from one opportunity for another if they don’t.

In the face of this mounting stress on the business, Nash said it’s critical that academic human resources programs adjust their curriculum to this new reality, if they haven’t done so already. She said over the past 10 years, a trend has emerged where human resources leaders are becoming chief learning officers and other decision-makers more focused on strategic business goals. In these positions, leaders can support their organizations’ efforts to think differently about talent.

It’s a philosophical shift human resources is having to reckon with, Nash said. The old-school human resources approach reduced people to the lowest common denominator, an employee, one easily substituted for another. Today, however, leaders understand that retaining workers means acknowledging their individual value and strategically investing in it.

Nash said when human resources integrates talent management and organizational development agendas, the goal is no longer to bring in and work people until they are sick of coming to the office. “The goal is to bring people in, and then make them feel good about the work they’re doing so they want to stay and grow and be productive — a great symbiotic relationship.”

Arriving at this evolved view requires going beyond building an understanding of benefits, payroll, employment law, promotion policies and other records-mired responsibilities that once defined the HR role. People preparing to enter the field also need to know how to identify skills gaps and development needs and how to support people when evolving personally and professionally.

The modern human resources professional needs to know how to design a workplace culture, how to engage workers and cultivate leadership and coaching approaches that empower employees to respond effectively to work problems, and to grow and think different about their work, Nash said. An ability to synthesize metrics and other analytics will increasingly be necessary as well.

Jean Roque, founder and president of the human resources consulting firm Trupp HR, said HR professionals — new graduates as well as those with established careers — also lack an awareness of what comprises a company’s employee value proposition and how to market an employer brand, align with it and promote it. This is important, because through interactions with company websites, social media and even conversations with current and former employees, prospective workers can build an idea of what a business stands for as an employer.

“Are we being intentional about what that brand is and are we making sure that once those applicants come to work for us that what they were expecting based on what they saw on our employer brand is what they’re getting from the standpoint of engagement and that employee value proposition?” Roque asked.

An understanding of marketing and social media also would be beneficial to today’s human resources and learning professionals, she said. And it’s critical they have greater awareness about different types of applicant pools, the different generations of workers, their stages of life and what appeals to them.

Leaders may naturally encounter insight into these areas once on the job, but Roque said development of these competencies should start before then. Academia must extend its view of human resources management from an operations enabler to a strategic business arm responsible for attracting, engaging, developing and retaining people. “A lot of HR professionals come out of school not even knowing that that’s part of what they need to be doing because when we don’t intentionally do that, it gets defined for us.”

The generation of people now entering the workforce are well-acquainted with the speed of change and ambiguity in ways their predecessors may not be, Nash said. Companies would be remiss to cling to antiquated human resources practice.

Reprinted from CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER magazine

9 Ways To Use Social Networks In eLearning

The eLearning is a term mostly serving to describe deliberate education with advanced technical user-friendly and intuitive teaching methods. Few of us, however, acknowledge the role different social networks play in teaching us to organize the conventional learning process thus merging it with eLearning step by step. Here you can get a rundown of using social networks in eLearning and how they make it ever more readily accessible and integrated for students. Getting to know how to operate these useful branchy GUIs on their own can make you a power user.

1. Sharing Audio Through iTalk

Running low on reading/writing focus at the lecture? Turn the chore into a podcast! iTalk makes capturing, editing, and distributing vocal audio even easier than it may seem with nowadays advancements. When dealing with a lot of lectures that force you to take notes till your hand withers this comes down as a convenient alternative of having a recorder. Now you can quote the speaker on every word.

2. Sharing Photos And Images Via Instagram

The notorious Instagram. You wouldn’t probably think it has anything to do with academic productivity, but it does actually. Despite having ego-driven activities one click away, many students avail themselves of posting photocopies of learning materials. Instagram excels at making organized collections of photos that are easy to manage and share. You can come up with a unique hashtag that will help your fellow students find the needed photos and pics.

3. Hosting Complex Folder Trees With Wunderlist

A great finding for a scatterbrain student, this web app will help you organize all the material you need to process. Folders, deadlines, commenting, reminders, check lists will help you and your supervisor to hold all the essentials in focus.

4.  Collaborating In Google Docs

This one should not be a stranger to anyone. Giving multiple access to text documents with traceable edit history and commenting has never been easier. In addition, it is used both by businesses and any kind of student teams with both basic and more complex written goals.

5. Taking Notes And Scheduling In Evernote

Originally designed as a database to remember everything, Evernote is a very useful tool for writers. Now it serves as a digital draft book you can pop up on your laptop or mobile device any time the inspiration strikes you. And, of course, the reminder functionality is still there. It’ll help you keep track of all you need as a convenient to do list.

6. Bookmarking With Pocket

Is your browser bookmark folder a painful display? An infinite roll of links stretching into infinity and beyond? If you really have a lot of links to keep organized and ready, the Pocket will help. It takes bookmarking to the “all you could think of” level with shared bookmark folders, collaborative editing, and organizing.

7. Sharing Vids With Vine

here is no better platform for posting short videos that yield high engagement. Viral videos are not the only side of the coin. In the fast paced environment of our world, Vine is also used for giving highlights of interesting lectures. With long videos the key points would otherwise be overlooked due to time constraints. Few people will go through an hour long video. Vine brings the compromise of 6 seconds.

8. Structuring Your Tasks With Trello

Trello is used by multinational corporations and its features will greatly benefit student teams too. Advanced scheduling and file hosting features make it an ultimate platform for collaboration that will introduce real time project management to young adults. Delivered in a sticky-note-like drag and drop fashion this task management platform makes goal completion feel very physical and rewarding.

9. Communicating Via Snapchat

This popular student app allows real time collaboration during the learning sessions. If integrated into the classroom by a teacher, students can do centralized commenting, image/link sharing, and texting. It truly makes empowering lessons, utilizing their potential to the fullest. Just don’t mix up the private chat with that one of teacher’s.

Of course there are more social networks that contribute to better learning and, most importantly, to connecting people. Additionally usage of complex social networks in eLearning provides a valuable learning experience on its own that prepares the students for difficult tasks and challenges of collaborative work in the modern conditions. So you better embrace it because eLearning has more or less permeated into everything.


Reprinted from eLearning Industry

With Social Media, The More The Better

One of the more common misconceptions when speaking about innovation is to pigeonhole it as solely new products or breakthrough innovation — that “aha” moment. However, a cursory glance at the history of invention shows that most of the products people use today are the results of creative individuals building upon work that had already been done.

The same is true when it comes to talent management. The way employees’ talents are managed has improved incrementally as new research and practical applications have come about. When the two disciplines merge, it becomes working with creative people in creative ways, and the results can help drive a company’s success and profitability.

Innovation matters. Companies that have shown high levels of innovation are also more profitable and better positioned for future profitability than their competitors. Human capital consultancy The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) launched a survey on the topic in January 2012 that more than 300 participants worldwide answered.

It asked questions about organizations’ effectiveness in different types of innovation such as breakthrough, incremental and business process, as well as the learning and development, rewards and recognition, and business strategy practices associated with innovation.

Among the findings were the answers to the basic question of whether innovation is correlated to market performance — the answer is yes — and also which types of innovation practices were statistically more likely to be correlated to more successful companies.

Two practices that showed a high correlation to market performance are 1) sharing knowledge by using technology-enabled collaboration or social media tools and 2) hosting internal tradeshows or similar forums.

Crowdsourcing: Power in Numbers

Social media is often touted as a panacea for all business problems. Problems with employee engagement? Try social media. Need to improve facilities management? Try social media. But its actual effect on innovation and creativity remains under-researched. Michael Muller, research scientist for the Collaborative User Experience Group at IBM, is working to change that.

“We look at how to simplify in terms of making our internal processes better, and about every two years, even how to change the values of the company,” he said. “It’s a pretty sincere effort at crowdsourcing.”

The idea of crowdsourcing is not new, but actually using it to engage employee knowledge to solve a business problem is still rare. Muller explained one of IBM’s approaches:

“One of the programs, led by Jason Wild, usually lasts two days overnight, and we do what might be called a micro-jam in order to come up with new ideas about what our client has told about on the first day. This is by pre-arrangement, so around about 5 or 6 o’clock a few of the people on the staff support role put the questions in a forum, in one of our traditional IBM communities, and people start brainstorming, [possibly] in their pajamas. This goes on for 12 hours, and we have IBM consultants with the customers.

“At 9 a.m. they present, maybe not draft solutions, but draft approaches taken from 50 to 100 or more IBM staffers. It’s kind of a wonderful experience of putting a whole lot of IBM’s minds behind a question very quickly.”

A lot of the power of crowdsourcing comes from bringing in ideas and knowledge outside of an organization’s normal employee base. Muller said many sessions have been open to customers, suppliers and family.

“Ten to 15 years ago one of our VPs had a slogan, ‘None of us is as smart as all of us,’ meaning that it is better when there are more diverse minds out there,” he said. “We recently did an analysis of 26 of these very fast 12- to 72-hour brainstorming special events. We looked at diversity in terms of country and division within the company — kind of a disciplinary diversity. We found that the more sources of diversity were represented, the more productive, engaged and intercommunicative people were.”

The specific metrics used to measure productivity were the number of contributions divided by number of people who were invited to normalize the results, since some of the more heavily attended online events were generating more ideas.

Engagement was measured by quantifying the number of different contributions a person might make and how often the individual returned to the forum. Intercommunication required looking at unique pairs of people who exchanged ideas. IBM found the correlations were statistically significant overall.

“We agree that ‘none of us is as smart as all of us,’” Muller said. “The conversation gets more interesting, richer, the more different people get involved.”

It’s not just company-sponsored events where technology-enabled communication can make a difference. Shortly after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, a number of IBM employees held one of these meetings to try to gather as many ideas as they could on some basic emergency management questions.

Questions such as “How can we plan for disasters like this?,” “What technology would help in these situations?” and “How can we meet the most immediate needs?” were presented to the online community that IBM created in the immediate aftermath.

“Nobody got paid to do this, this was no one’s day job,” Muller said. “[Some] 1,200 people joined, 275 made some contributions, and the total number of contributions was 350, yet the cost of participation is extraordinarily low.”

With IBM’s permission, he analyzed the discussion, looking for statistics on breadth such as how many contributed to the conversation, and depth such as how long each reply lasted. He found a significant amount of each, but was surprised to see how few of the participants were from Japan. Twelve hours later, he said, Japan was able to get to computers and contribute too.

With so many clients in the country, this wasn’t a feel-good exercise for IBM. It gave the company a chance to better serve its clients by harnessing all of the creative minds that are important to business and the people the business serves.

Sharing at a Show

Using technology and social media platforms to increase communication can be helpful in idea generation, but talent leaders also will want to consider how it impacts actual hands-on product creation. That is not so easily shared using a digital format. Sometimes people need to touch, feel or use an item to understand it, or to be moved enough to light that creative fire.

Laura Shanley, employee communications specialist on internal tradeshows at Qualcomm, a wireless technology and services company, has been working on a solution to that problem.

Qualcomm has a number of venues to foster innovation. For instance, it has a three-day innovation experience where employees submit ideas, and their papers are reviewed by experts in the field, with rewards and recognition going to the best.

However, those sorts of activities are targeted at employees who normally work in a traditionally innovative role — ones in which creativity is associated with the job. But what about the rest of the employees? How do they engage in the product development at the heart of Qualcomm’s business model? Shanley explained how it works via the story of how the internal tradeshows came about.

“We as a company have a lot of marketing folks who attend tradeshows on a regular basis, like CES or those other large tradeshows. All employees can’t all go to those necessarily, so part of this is bringing that experience to employees so they can see what’s going on across the company,” she said. “We have several different divisions, so people tend to get their heads down in their work, and it makes it easy to lose sight of what’s going on across the company. This gives employees a chance to literally come outside and see what’s hot right now — what’s going on within the different groups outside of your silo.”

For the last five years, Qualcomm hosted a company-wide tradeshow. The annual event lasted about a half-day, and featured about 40 booths showcasing technologies from multiple divisions across the company. Employees had an opportunity to see and use the technologies, and to talk to people in other departments.

This knowledge sharing was not confined to the yearly event. Recognizing the need to have more idea exchanges while not taking valuable productivity time from employees, Qualcomm also hosted demo showcases attached to other meetings, such as during the employee all-hands meeting.

“There would be an employee update, a financial update, what we were looking forward to,” Shanley said. “With that we would invite employees an hour prior to the meeting to set up demos in the lobby in front of the meeting place to see them. That’s a low-effort way to put on a tradeshow and attaching it to a business-related event.”

To judge the tradeshows’ effectiveness, Shanley’s group surveyed attendees and participants, and found employees were more informed about what the company was working on, and that the shows increased employee collaboration and engagement.

This works well if a company produces tangible items, but things are different when innovation centers on business models or processes. Shanley said Qualcomm’s corporate R&D department also held an annual tradeshow across multiple floors in its R&D center where employees could walk up and down the hallways and in and out of the labs, see poster boards and hear what peers are working on.

Not all creative ideas make something out of nothing. Some of the best ideas build on what has been done before. When it comes to managing people, taking some of these ideas and repurposing them can facilitate innovation in most organizations.

Reprinted from Talent Management magazine


How to Establish the ROI of Social Learning

A good deal of my time is spent providing workshops and conference presentations on social learning and the use of social media to support and extend social learning in the workplace. In every session, it seems, someone comes just to challenge me to “prove” that all this isn’t a waste of time, that there is performance-enhancing value in social connections and interactions, particularly of the online variety.

They usually want some magic metric, some formula like, “two hours on LinkedIn + four comments in groups = tangible outcomes for the organization.” It doesn’t work that way. A great deal depends on how the worker chooses to spend that time in social channels, how well he filters and curates information, how she chooses the people with whom she’s interacting.

The quality of those interactions depends in turn on many other issues, including trust, a willingness to ask for and offer help, and time invested in developing ties deeper than those purely at the surface. Likewise, a worker expected to improve performance and support organizational goals must know what the expectations are around that.

Value creation

Etienne Wenger (of Cultivating Communities of Practice fame), Beverly Traynor, and Maarten De Laat have recently published a new conceptual framework for understanding and assessing value in such interactions. It includes a nice overview chart (Figure 1, below) that I’ve found helpful in addressing concerns of my audience members.

Figure 1: Wenger, E., B. Traynor, and M. De Laat. Chart from Assessing Value Creation for Communities of Practice and Networks: A Conceptual Framework. Used with permission.

Immediate value

I’ll use myself as an example of how the chart helps shine light on real activity and outcomes. I spend a lot of time on Twitter because there are so very many smart people there, who at any hour of the day or night are talking about something I often didn’t even know I wanted to talk about.

I mostly follow learning, training, and eLearning people, but I also like some fiction authors and a few experts in other fields. Those people who only talk about what their cats had for breakfast? I don’t follow them. But it’s important to note: I am very active on Twitter. I engage, and talk, and interact with people. I drop in on several live Twitter chats a month. I try to contribute as much as I take. I like to think I help.

So in looking at Wenger et al’s first column: I feel I get immediate value from the quality of interaction and reciprocity, I am given food for thought that I do reflect on, and I make it no secret that I am having fun.

Potential value

Moving across the chart to the second column: From my participation, what is the potential value? I’ve certainly developed a lot of connections, many in other parts of the world who offer

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very diverse viewpoints. I find I’m often inspired to read up on a new area or check out a new app or other tool. My views on learning have shifted considerably over the past five years as I’ve recognized firsthand the power and potential of increased support for social learning in the workplace.

Applied value

Now, moving to the third column, we look to see whether dots are connecting. I spend a lot of time on Twitter, I make a lot of connections, I read about things that interest me. But am I getting applied value? Do I leverage those connections? Have I engaged enough with my personal learning network so that, if I ask for help, some people might respond?

Let’s revisit an example I used in a previous column, one spurred by a phone call from one of our agencies.

I tweeted this (Figure 2):

Figure 2: Leveraging connections on Twitter: original tweet asking for help
In two minutes’ time I had several responses, including this one (Figure 3):

Figure 3: One of the many immediate responses

I found the document, scanned it to see if it seemed okay, and sent it on to the agency. They said it was just what they needed. This amounted to a four-minute interruption in my day.

So you tell me: Is there applied value? Am I using my connections and implementing advice?

Realized value

Moving to the next column on the chart from Wenger et al, “Realized value.” I gave the customer a good response in four minutes. Is that a reflection on my personal performance? How about my organization’s reputation? Let me ask it another way: when’s the last time you called a government agency and got a good answer in four minutes?

Reframing value

In terms of the last column of Figure 1, “Reframing value”: I don’t know that I’ve changed my institution (yet), but I’ve influenced ideas around new ways of working. And while I’m not asked for evidence that I am effective, whenever I get a solution or innovative idea via one of my social channels, I take a screenshot or write a quick note and send it on to management anyway.

So, in looking for value in online interactions, try to get past the idea of a magic metric. I can’t tell you that my spending x hours on LinkedIn and tweeting y times per day will get you the result I got in the example above. I can tell you that my choice of when, with whom, and how to engage is what helped drive that result.

So what can we do? Help workers begin to articulate the ways in which interactions have solved a problem, reflected on their personal performance, or reflected on the organization’s reputation or performance. Start asking, “What did you learn today/this week? How has that affected your performance? How does it help the organization?”

Help connect dots between social interaction and access to expertise, and between those connections and new tools and reframing ways of working. And please do review the full text of the piece by Wenger, Traynor, and De Laat, available at

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

Can Social Media Produce Wellness Benefits?

For years, Chilton Hospital tried to get employees to take better care of themselves.

The northwest New Jersey hospital’s human resources staff launched diabetes and other disease management initiatives to improve employee well-being and reduce health care costs. But the resulting behavior changes were minor, and the programs only covered a small number of employees.

That changed, though, when Chilton switched gears to a wellness program that asked employees to get social and competitive.

In March 2011, Chilton entered a countywide fitness challenge where employees vied in teams of six against other local businesses to see who could eat the healthiest, walk the most or drop the most weight. During the 100-day challenge, competitors logged onto a private, Facebook-like social network to share results and cheer each other on.

To get employees to participate, the 256-bed hospital offered $150 to each member of the winning team and $500 to the employee who shed the most pounds. All told, 56 teams signed up, about 37 percent of the staff. In the end, though, it wasn’t the money that drew the workers in. It was the online camaraderie, and the challenge. “People wanted to be on the winning team,” says Julie McGovern, Chilton’s vice president of administration and HR.

Experiences like Chilton’s are playing out across the country as companies rebuild their employee wellness programs on Internet-based social networks that are equal parts health journal, fitness challenge and online support group.

Companies hope the programs will curb escalating costs for health care benefits. In 2008, the first year American Financial Group, or AFG, ran a social media-based walking program through vendor WalkingSpree, the insurance company saved $9.27 in employee health care costs for every $1 spent on the program. The insurance company’s health care premiums stayed flat that year because employees were healthier, according to a testimonial from AFG, which continues to use the program.

Aside from cutting costs, online-based wellness applications can help retain talent. The programs generally make employees feel better about themselves, and by extension, with the place they work, so they’ll stick around longer.

“Employers are starting to recognize that incorporating elements of social media into a wellness program can boost participation and engagement and help create that buzz and culture around health and wellness that traditional engagement” methods aren’t generating, says Kristie Howard, a vice president at Longfellow Benefits, a Boston-based benefits consultant.

Buoyed by a Confluence of Trends

Social wellness games represent a confluence of some of today’s most significant online and workplace trends. One of the biggest is “gamification,” or adding gamelike features to software and other business processes to make them more fun and engaging. Technology analyst Gartner Group predicts that by 2014, 70 percent of the 2,000 largest companies in the world will use at least one “gamified” enterprise software application.

With more companies using internal social networks such as Yammer and Socialtext to improve workforce collaboration, replace email or streamline other aspects of work, it’s easing the way for workplaces to adopt Internet-based platforms for wellness games and challenges. When wellness tech vendor ShapeUp Inc. polled 351 U.S. corporate wellness executives this spring, 56 percent said that they were using some type of online competition or challenge, and another 40 percent were considering it. “It’s a natural migration for wellness programs,” says Shawn LaVana, ShapeUp’s marketing vice president.

Like other tech innovations that started out as consumer products before migrating to the world of work, many social wellness services had their roots in the personal health care apps that appeared after the iPhone and other smartphones became commonplace. Software as a Service-based internal networks such as ShapeUp let employees chart their progress toward losing weight or getting fit, or to record their standings in team or group challenges. Others such as Walkingspree work with pedometers or other devices that employees wear while working out, and then plug into a PC to download data to an online fitness journal.

As more employees bring smartphones to work, it has become easier for employers to offer wellness games and other social media-based content that can be accessed from a mobile device or laptop or desktop computers. But apps don’t have to be that sophisticated. Employees can use ShapeUp, for example, to receive fitness-related text messages on a standard cellphone, a selling point for companies with large contingents of blue-collar workers who don’t or can’t use a smartphone on the job.

Enough companies are interested that industry organizations, such as the Society for Human Resource Management, are holding sessions on social media-based wellness programs at various 2012 annual conferences.

Using Third-Party Wellness Programs

Although some companies stick to Facebook and Twitter or corporate blogs for wellness tips and to promote challenges, more employers are paying monthly or yearly subscription fees to outside vendors to run online programs for them.

To run its social wellness program, Chilton chose Keas, a 4-year-old online game platform co-founded by the former head of the now shuttered Google Health. The platform lets employees create profiles, share updates to a Facebook-like news feed, take online health quizzes and keep tabs on their teams and challenges. Wellness program managers use the platform to generate reports on participation, physical activity and other statistics.

During the hospital’s first 100-day challenge, 336 employees used the platform to track losing an aggregate 1,230 pounds, eating 8,918 additional servings of fruit and vegetables and putting in 1,274 extra days of exercise, according to McGovern, the facility’s administration and HR vice president. “It wasn’t just exercise and eating better,” she says. “People made a commitment to stop smoking, take stress management classes and control ongoing diseases.”

The hospital’s already committed to hosting two more challenges this year. But it will take time for the program to affect the hospital’s bottom line. To gauge that impact, Chilton is doing free biometric screenings—height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index—once every six months for employees who participate in the challenges. “Because if people can keep the weight off, it will ultimately be a positive thing,” for them and the company, McGovern says.

Elsewhere, reception of the new generation wellness programs has been strong. In ShapeUp’s survey, 75 percent of companies offering some type of online fitness challenge said it had improved employees’ perception of their corporate wellness program, and 71 percent said employees were using more wellness resources because of the programs. “It’s getting people to take ownership of their health,” says Fran Melmed, an employee wellness communications consultant who conducted the survey for ShapeUp.

For some companies, social wellness programs are already paying off. Sprint Nextel Corp. estimates it saved approximately $1.1 million through a companywide fitness challenge launched in 2011 as employees’ healthier lifestyles led to fewer medical claims. In the company’s first 12-week Sprint Get Fit Challenge, run by ShapeUp and benefits provider OptumHealth, about 16,000 employees in teams of up to 11 lost a collective 41,000 pounds, took more than 4.8 billion steps and logged nearly 22 million exercise minutes, according to the company.

Other employers and social wellness vendors are still calculating the return on investment such products can have. Traditional wellness programs such as Weight Watchers have a head start because of their longevity, Melmed says, but new vendors are taking steps to quantify how well their programs work. ShapeUp and Healthways Inc.’s MeYou Health, for example, are doing studies to compile hard data, she says.

A weight-loss study that ShapeUp conducted in 2009 is one of the first analyses of online-based employee-wellness programs to be published in a peer-reviewed medical or scientific journal. The results are based on data from 3,330 overweight or obese people in 987 teams that completed a 12-week online challenge.

The results, published online in March by Obesity, a research journal, support the theory that online programs that let people work out with teammates can help workers lose weight, according to the report.

Despite the advantages social wellness programs offer, some employees worry about their personal information being compromised, says Howard of Longfellow Benefits who helped start the Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts last year. Howard isn’t aware of any breaches, “but due to the potential for issues with HIPAA privacy, social media is an area employers and wellness vendors should approach cautiously,” she says.

Also to avoid privacy issues, social wellness product vendors are being careful to use their platforms to share health and wellness information but not dispense personalized health care advice, Howard says.

Melmed agrees. “Employers should look to insurers and other third parties to help them expand their programs with sensors or devices,” she says. “That way the employer gets a better sense of movement, activity or engagement but doesn’t get into how many steps Suzy or Jack took today. It makes for an easier, cleaner message to the employee as well.”

Committing for the Long Haul

It may be easy to get employees excited about an eight- or 10-week weight-loss challenge or a one-time companywide biometric screening. But for long-term success, social media-based programs need to be part of a larger commitment, wellness experts say.

In addition to online challenges, a wellness program has to foster ongoing discussion of healthy lifestyles, whether through a digital network, blog, e-newsletter or old-fashioned print materials, says Jennifer Benz, founder of a San Francisco-based employee wellness communications consultancy.

Companies also need to offer a healthy work environment, one with fitness facilities, nutritious options in the cafeteria and a culture that doesn’t prize overtime at the expense of its employees’ well-being, says Benz, who partnered with wellness application vendor Limeade on a wellness app platform called Limeade GreenLine. “You have to address all those structure things that get in the way of

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people achieving their optimal health,” she says.

Chilton Hospital has taken that advice to heart. Since that first 100-day challenge a year ago, the hospital put a walking path around campus and organized walking groups and a hiking club. McGovern scaled back the prizes she’s offering for signups and winners because workers no longer need as much persuading.

McGovern says she believes that the combination of the online wellness challenge, biometric screenings and running a separate disease management program will eventually help the hospital cut health care costs. The social media wellness campaign is a major part of that, especially because so many of the facility’s employees who don’t sit at a desk all day can use it.

And they are—everyone from nurses to the cleaning crew and cafeteria staff. “They’re finding ways to use it on their breaks, or on their smartphones at home,” she says. “To have so many people participating, it shows you how much they want to do it.”

About the Author:

Michelle V. Rafter is a Workforce Management contributing editor. Reprinted from Workforce Management

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