Top 10 Ways to Make Your Employee Walking Program Matter

by Hiran Perera
Disengaged employees can cost your business money - lots of money. According to a Gallup-study, the tab for disengaged employees was a huge $350 billion a year.

So how can you turn the tide at your company? One proven and effective way to engage employees to is offer a walking program. Corporate walking programs not only help employees get healthier and help control health care costs, they also improve company morale and create a work environment that keeps your staff engaged.

In addition, a fit worker, is a safer worker. Employees who are involved in physical labor are less likely to get hurt if they maintain strength and flexibility. Office workers raise their productivity through exercise and regular mental breaks that involve walking. A more fit and alert workforce is a safer one. That's why a walking program can be an important factor in workplace safety.

Here are important elements for a successful workplace walking program:

1. Create a pathway for success. Work within your office environment. Map out routes indoors and outdoors. Make getting up to take walks at breaks and lunchtime part of your corporate culture. Use signage on elevators encouraging staff to take the stairs.

2. Take the stats before you start. Knowing your employees’ health risk assessments and biometric data before starting the program makes it easier to calculate your ROI. Employees will have a stronger sense of cause and effect when they see their physical results improve after participating in a walking program. This not only motivates employees to participate, but it also provides them the information they need to get healthy.

3. Walking meets the Web. No one has the time or desire to manually track data. A USB pedometer provides automated uploading, with no need to self-track or manually add numbers. Online websites that allow easy communication with and among employees, as well as provide real-time data, are far more motivating than static data. Validated data will give your employees confidence that incentives are fairly distributed.

4. Get C-level support. Programs that have management buy-in and direct involvement have higher engagement, as they set the standard for program expectations. Walking teams with support from management can foster team cooperation beyond the walking challenge.

5. Create a wide range of walking plans for increased participation. Everyone may want to walk, but one single environment may not work for everyone. Some people are competitive, while others are social or collaborative. Structure walking programs and challenges to meet the needs of all your employees.

6. Plan walking with both short- and long-term goals. Keep the program interesting, exciting and purposeful. Set goals with incentives that are manageable. Structure challenges with short-term goals that act as breadcrumbs to guide participants in reaching the challenge’s long-term goal.

7. Integrate your fitness and rewards. Find ways to work your existing rewards and incentives into the walking program. If your employees already earn points or dollars towards their health savings accounts or premium reductions in other ways, walking step-counts can be used toward them, too.

8. Create rewards that make sense. No one wants to walk a marathon for a $10 gift card. Behavioral economic research shows that the attraction of the chance of winning a big prize, such as a dream vacation, effectively motivates employees. For example, all participants who walk one million steps in six months earn a raffle ticket for the grand prize.

9. Shout success from the rooftops. Recognize winners, achievers, and goal-milestones as they happen. Include achievers’ names and quotes in your company newsletter and company social media. Also consider separate walking-program communications, as it emphasizes its importance to the company culture. Be creative in sharing success, such as posting leader boards in public areas.

10. Make it happy & fun! Corporate walking programs have the highest participation and engagement statistics among wellness programs. Taking steps to engage your employees in a competition or incentive program pays off in more ways than one. Not only will their health improve, but so will morale.

About the Author
Hiran Perera is the CEO of Walkingspree, a specialized wellness provider delivering walking programs for health insurers and corporate clients. Based on USB pedometers that track validated steps, as well as active social media networks and interactive food and body trackers, these programs typically deliver more than 50 percent employee participation and consistent year-over-year member retention. Results are healthier employees and a positive return on investment for clients. He can be reached @ Hiran@Walkingspree.com