Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Three Tips for Improving Your Corporate Fitness Program

ThinkstockPhotos-186871442.jpgCorporate fitness programs in businesses all across the country have been doing pretty much the same thing, quite possibly for decades. The programs look very different, one from the next, but the basic premise is the same.

  • Employer: "We want you to be healthy. Here's [insert your corporate fitness answer here: a gym membership, group fitness classes, walking paths, an onsite corporate fitness center, etc.] for you to use. Go be active (when you're not working).
  • Employee: "I'd love to start exercising, but I don't know what's safest and most effective for me. Plus, I don't have much time, and clearly, I have work quotas to meet. It's great that the company offers these healthy options, but it doesn't seem like the right fit for me."

Read Now: Why Corporate Fitness Needs to Evolve

There's a real risk in corporate fitness that we only ever reach the folks who would be active regardless of whether there was a corporate fitness program. So the challenge for businesses becomes how to reach employees who are interested in exercising but who don't know where to begin. Get your organization started in the right direction with these three tips for improving your corporate fitness program.

Tip 1: Get the staffing right.

Finding the right staff to support your corporate fitness offerings is crucial to the success of the program. As an organization that provides this very service to businesses all over the country, we’ve written extensively on the topic. It’s no surprise that we think outsourcing your fitness staff is a great choice. However, if your fitness center staffing style is more of a DIY approach, definitely consider the tips in this blog, 3 Tips for Hiring an Active Aging or Corporate Fitness Professional.

Tip 2: Offer the right services.

There are core services that should be in place for a corporate fitness program to be successful:

  • Individual education through exercise prescriptions and fitness assessment and testing is essential. Both of these services, which can easily be provided by your qualified staff, provide a fantastic foundation to the employees who are fence-sitters about exercise—you know, the employees who want to try moving more but who aren't sure how to get started safely. Those are the very same employees you're trying to draw into the program; addressing their concerns and questions with tailored services is a great way to show them that the door to starting an exercise program at work is wide open.

Alternative to Personal Training -- Read More!

  • Incentive programs can help keep the fitness program interesting and are a fantastic way to help employees reach for better health beyond physical fitness. We've written about several of our successful incentives programs; click any of the titles below to find out more.

Employee Wellness Programming Beyond the Corporate Fitness Center

Making Fitness Fun in Corporate Wellness

Increasing Participation with SKELETONE

A Simple Way to Boost Participation in Your Corporate Fitness Center

How a Simple Squat Challenge Improved Corporate Fitness Metrics

Tip 3: Ask the right questions.

Anecdotal feedback and thank-you emails provide periodic indications of whether your fitness staff is on the right track with employees. But there's nothing like concrete bulk survey feedback to help steer a program in the right direction. Sure, there are problems with surveys, but in our decades of experience with managing corporate fitness centers, we increasingly find surveys to be a very helpful tool for setting our management strategy for each client. Here's how we use them:

  • We use them for specific programs to determine whether we're achieving goals with those programs. For more on our evaluation methods, check out this blog: 4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use.
  • From a program satisfaction standpoint, we've found surveys to be quite helpful as well. While the anonymity of them can sometimes leave our staff open to very negative feedback, the vast majority of responses are constructive and quite helpful for us in determining what our next year of program and service spotlights should be.

Want to learn more about how to make effective use of surveys to improve your corporate fitness program? Download our whitepaper.

Implement surveys to initiate change

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness participation data fitness assessment staffing incentives exercise prescriptions CORP Programs and Services surveys feedback

Why Group Fitness Belongs in Your Corporate Wellness Program

I’ve never been that into group fitness. I’m simply more of a solo exerciser. But starting my career managing corporate fitness centers, it became clear to me very quickly that my personal philosophy about where group classes fit into my routine was counter to a sizable minority of members in the facilities I supported.

There is something about that group dynamic that works for participants. Whether it’s the energy of others, the instructor who tells you what to do, or the music that moves your feet, something draws participants in and keeps them coming back.


Mixed Adherence and Retention Results

Researchers have long been studying variables that can influence exercise adherence; and to date, outcomes from various studies have been in conflict. For example, the S.W.E.A.T. study on women ages 40 to 65 showed that group-based exercise in a “center” setting compared with home-based individual exercise netted better retention. But other research indicates that home-based interventions demonstrated better adherence over time.

We do know that positive social support from both staff and peers directly in the exercise setting is important, and group classes provide a built-in social network. Also, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) polled gym members for their primary areas of participation and found that about 43% of gym members participate in group exercise.

NIFS Poll Shows Benefits of Group Fitness Classes

Anecdotally, I know of several individuals who have been able to dramatically improve their health primarily through group classes. So when we polled our NIFS corporate group fitness class participants about their experiences with our classes, I wasn’t terribly surprised at the results.

We polled all employees at our client locations in Indianapolis, Indiana, where we’re offering group fitness classes. In some cases, we’re providing only classes at a location, whereas in other locations we’re managing the corporate fitness center along with providing classes. Here’s what we learned:

  • Just over one-third of responders indicated that NIFS group fitness classes were their primary source of exercise through the week.
  • Almost 80% indicated that they exercise more often because of the group fitness classes available at their office.
  • Roughly three quarters of responders noted personal health improvements since they started taking group classes with NIFS instructors.
  • A full 96% indicated that the classes at their worksite were a definite employee perk.

The numbers tell us that group fitness is still a fantastic way for employers to create exercise opportunities for their employees. It’s a low-cost (or no-cost if employees pay) option that doesn’t require much equipment or space, and it can net positive health outcomes for employees. It just may earn you loyalty points as well.

If you’re sold on the idea of adding group exercise classes to your corporate wellness offerings but aren’t sure where to start, check out this blog and our quick read: 3 keys to adding group fitness at work.

Topics: group exercise corporate fitness motivation NIFS corporate fitness managment data

A Simple Walking Test to Predict Longevity in Seniors

If you follow our blog, you’ve no doubt figured out that we’re big fans of data. Our staff aren’t statisticians, but they do regularly measure the impact of their programming to better understand what’s working and why. They also do quite a bit of work gathering data with and for the individuals they serve; most commonly that information is gathered through a fitness evaluation.

Testing Senior Fitness

For our senior living clients, the Senior Fitness Test is the traditional tool we use. It includes assessments like a chair stand, a chair sit-and-reach, and a two-minute step test. (If you want a little bit deeper dive on assessments with older adults, read this article.)

It’s a quality series of tests that have been validated in the scientific literature, and the individual tests are safe to use on participants with a broad range of abilities. And it helps our staff set benchmarks with participants on their physical fitness. Sometimes it offers red flags that trigger a referral to therapy, but more often than not, it’s simply a starting point for the participant, and it offers an opportunity to establish fitness goals in connection with a personalized exercise program.

But many communities don’t have the benefit of a trained exercise specialist onsite, like NIFS staff, who can do that follow up with participants. Additionally, some equipment is required to perform the tests. Where budgets are a challenge, the equipment may not make it into the budget.

The Walking Speed Study

As it turns out, there may be another very simple way to look at assessments. Of course, the tests you give depend on what you want to measure, but if you’re looking for a way to measure longevity in your residents, a walking test may be all that’s needed. According to this study, walking speed may be a good predictor of life span across categories of age, race, and height, but it was found to be particularly useful at determining life expectancy for individuals who were functionally independent and who were older than age 75.

The study specifically looked at nine studies between 1986 and 2000 assessing community-dwelling adults age 65 or older. All participants had baseline gait speed data and were followed for 6 to 21 years. In clinical applications from this study, physicians working with older adults on treatment plans could use results of a simple walking-speed test to determine best course of treatment. But there are applications in your community setting as well.

Walking is a simple activity for most of us, but it requires the use of energy and the coordination of multiple systems within the body. Decreased mobility–gait speed–may be an indicator of a decline in those various systems and an overall decline in vitality for the individual. Thus, tracking changes in gait speed over time for your residents could allow your multidisciplinary team of community professionals to intervene as you start to track a decline for a particular resident.

You can download a simple toolkit for measuring gait speed here. With nothing more than a marked-off area, a stopwatch, and some math, you can be on your way to assessing your residents’ longevity.

Five Reasons to Choose NIFS

If you’re looking for more than a simple gait assessment to help your residents improve their fitness level, download our quick read below to see why senior living communities across the U.S. are partnering with NIFS to manage their fitness centers.

 

Topics: walking senior living senior fitness data longevity

Successful Corporate Fitness Program Gets Back to the Basics

Americans are fond of a quick fix, in weight loss in particular. According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, surgical weight loss procedures increased from 13,000 in 1998 to 220,000 in 2008. A survey in the United Kingdom evaluated public attitudes toward such cosmetic surgery for weight loss and found that 59% of women would choose surgery over changing eating habits and engaging in regular exercise to lose weight or change their body shape. 

Anecdotally, our corporate fitness staff see these stories in the employees they serve as well. As a nation, we haven’t moved the needle on helping adults get more movement in their daily lives, and the numbers inside the corporate fitness center have peaked as well. So, what are we doing wrong?

Certainly, there are work-related and personal-life pressures that the staff in your corporate fitness center cannot impact, and there will always be a cap on how many employees they can reach. But in some ways, we’ve fallen away from basic services and simple program design as tools to draw participants into the programs. Businesses have committed (right or wrong) their focus to outcomes-based wellness offerings, and looked to biometric data and HRA results for those outcomes. Businesses have also turned (in droves) to wearables as a tool to help employees move more; the jury is still out on their long-term effectiveness. 

NIFS150 Encourages More Physical ActivityWatchThinkstockPhotos-465631985

In an effort to get back to simple measures designed to help participants (1) understand their fitness level, and (2) move more minutes each day, our staff designed a simple NIFS150 program where participants were encouraged to accomplish 150 minutes of physical activity per week for eight weeks and complete a pre- and post-program fitness assessment. 

Participants were able to earn their 150 minutes anywhere, anytime—we simply wanted them working to achieve the research-backed recommendation from the CDC. We pulled fitness assessments into the mix as a throwback to some older research performed by Dr. Steven Blair and colleagues that was published in the April 1995 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. That research showed that improving fitness level (defined by cardiovascular endurance) can decrease mortality risk. 

Forty percent of the initial 700 participants in the NIFS program completed at least 150 minutes of activity per week all eight weeks, and the staff completed assessments on 198 participants. Almost half of the participants indicated that this was the first NIFS program they’ve tried, so we’re pleased we hit a sweet spot for so many new folks! 

More than 75% of participants reported that the challenge helped them be more active than usual. Still, it’s worth noting that only one third of participants actually used the fitness center more during the program. You might think we were disappointed that more participants didn’t flock to the fitness centers with this client to gain their 150 minutes. After all, the program ran through the first quarter of 2015 in Indiana; it’s not like it was prime weather for exercising outside. Our priority with this initiative was to help employees be more physically active. We definitely keep track of visits, memberships, and other fitness center-related metrics, but we think it’s a win that we drew in so many newbies and that participants were more active than usual during the challenge. 

What We Learned from the Data

In addition to gaining some feedback from all the participants, we also surveyed those who completed fitness assessments as part of the program. We learned that

  • 70% of those who responded to the survey had never participated in a fitness assessment before.
  • 62% are now more likely to be active in their corporate fitness center.
  • 70% intend to continue with a periodic fitness assessment to track their progress on fitness-specific goals.
My read on this basic data is that we have a lot of opportunity to communicate the value of the (free) fitness assessments. We may need to find new language and new avenues for talking about what the testing is and how it might help an employee achieve health-related goals. And we probably have some champions from this initial offering of NIFS150 who could help by sharing their stories. We also have a clear opening to revisit the basic 150 minutes per week recommendation as a tool to draw more employees into moving more each day.  

Our staff continue to provide innovative programming for our clients. But this particular program points to just how simple a science-based offering can be yet still create impact. 

How are you creating impact through corporate fitness programming? Looking for more program ideas to get your creative juices flowing? Check out our Best Practices series—click on the button below to find out more. 

 NIFS Best Practices Corporate

Topics: exercise corporate fitness NIFS corporate fitness centers staying active program evaluation data fitness assessment

Why Nobody’s Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 3 of 3)

seniors meetingYour marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

I started this blog series talking about the importance of following all the way through on your capital investment for your resident fitness program. In part two of the series, I covered some basics on the importance of quality leadership as central to your community’s exercise strategy.

In this third part of the series, we’ll look at how your marketing and sales team can better tap into your fitness program as a sales tool. After all, once you nail the strategy and the staffing for your program, it only makes sense to make sure your marketing team can communicate your updated and comprehensive services to prospective residents.

Promoting Senior Lifestyle Benefits in Marketing Collateral

How does your community talk about wellness to prospects? How do you promote resident lifestyle in your collateral? If you haven’t given much thought to this, it’s definitely time to start. You’d have to be under a pretty big rock to have missed the continued rise to prominence that wellness is making in senior living.

And it’s because of that elevated importance that breezing through or ignoring your resident wellness amenities and services is no longer an option. Skipping over wellness in your collateral and marketing events is a huge mistake.

Promoting the Senior Wellness Program Effectively During Facility Tours

When I consult with communities, it’s really (frighteningly) common to talk with the marketing and sales staff and learn that they’re offering something like this during a tour:

“Now we’re walking past our pool and coming up next will be our exercise room. We have personal trainers and a lot of different types of group fitness classes available for you to try all week long.”

It’s like running through a checklist of “stuff” you’re throwing at a prospect. Dining, check. Exercise, check. Crafts, check. No stories, nothing a prospect can sink her teeth into and really consider how her life would be if she had access to those opportunities.

Typically, when the tour sounds like that, there is also a lack of marketing collateral about wellness, and there generally aren’t events for prospects that communicate how your community helps residents live well.

Sometimes the glossing over is because of a lack of confidence about the community’s amenities or services. Here’s the thing: you do not have to offer jaw-droppingly beautiful amenities in order to execute well on a message of well-living at your community. But you do need to have solid services with the right staff people behind that programming in order to market the lifestyle at your community effectively.

The right people plus the right program gets you the right stories you need to help prospects relate to what it will be like to live in your community. And that’s what you ultimately want, right? Happy residents are the ones who feel connected, who engage in more living, and who contribute to their own lives and the lives of those around them through the opportunities you offer.

If you’re looking for a place to start on more effective communication and marketing opportunities around resident wellness, look no further than some simple numbers.

Data Matters, and Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Differently

There are a number of areas in your wellness program where you can gather data, and I’m a big advocate for data because it’s crucial to determining success as well as to telling the story about what wellness is at a community. You can make a big impact in marketing messaging simply by spotlighting how many residents participate in your fitness programming. But you can’t capitalize on that number or message if you don’t actually have the data.

Consider a resident story that might look something like this:

“At ABC Community, our residents believe that moving your body is one of many ways to live well. In fact, they’re such big believers that 83% of them participate in our fitness programs on a regular basis. When Mrs. Jones moved here in 2007, she wasn’t much for exercise. In fact, she’d never been to a class, or walked on a treadmill. But after she met with our fitness manager and had her personalized program created, she started moving and hasn’t stopped.” 

My hunch is that the pretend story I outlined would resonate with a lot of prospects who have never exercised, are a little afraid of it, and are entirely unsure how to get started. Unless you have a story to which the prospect can relate, the sales staff mentions “fitness center” and “trainer,” and the prospect automatically writes that off as a nice perk but one she’ll never use. And just like that, you’ve missed a chance to help the prospect see how living at your senior living community is not only different (she already knows that and it’s part of what’s keeping her from moving), but actually better than where she’s living now. Mrs. Jones—the resident in the testimonial—sounds like that prospect, probably looks like her, and she’s been able to live exceptionally well since she moved into your community. It’s compelling and reassuring, and it’s all backed by a wellness strategy that captures the data and the stories for use at the right times.

Now, getting that data and those stories is not rocket science, but it does require that you have the right personnel behind the wellness programming to facilitate a more strategic approach to resident lifestyle. You need health-oriented professionals (do not read that as “clinicians”) who have a head for numbers and a heart for people. If you need a refresher on the quality leadership part of this puzzle, return to part 2 in this series.

 

Whitepaper: Creating a Wellness Culture

 

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living community marketing senior living fitness center data wellness consulting

Corporate Fitness Program Spotlight: Club PED

Club PedAt our client sites, we’ve been offering walking initiatives for years. After all, it’s kind of the original fitness opportunity at worksites, right? They’re super-simple, generally easy access for participants, and most people can participate. For better or worse, we’ve steered clear of linking the program with pedometers, but we do get a lot of really useful self-report data from participants for the program.

The Basics of Club PED

It’s a mileage-driven walking and running program, and with some of our clients, we run this initiative annually. It’s become such a staple in our program planning that associates ask about it, wanting to be sure they don’t miss the registration.

Participants self-select into their desired weekly mileage goal: 5 miles per week, 10 miles per week, or 15 miles per week. They can complete their mileage anywhere, including walking the halls at work, in the corporate fitness center, or on vacation at the beach! The goal is to maintain their chosen goal mileage each week for the duration of the program. We allow a few “off” weeks (you know how life gets in the way), so participants must maintain a minimum of their goal mileage for 8 of the 10 weeks of the program.

We’ve witnessed participants start out lacking confidence that they can finish 5 miles per week for 12 weeks, and by the time the next year rolls around, they have a 5K or 10K under their belts with an eye toward upping their Club PED mileage goal.

The Data from Club PED

As I mentioned, we’ve been running this program for years. But in the last two years, we have seen some important jumps in participation and completion rates.

In 2012 and 2013, we averaged 59 miles per participant, which means that a typical Club PED member walked 7.4 miles per week beyond his or her normal daily activity. This represents a 34% increase over the average miles per participant for the preceding three years. Another positive trend in the last two years is our finisher rate. Our staff saw an average of 44.6% of Club PED participants successfully meet their weekly mileage goal for the duration of the program. From 2009 to 2011, we achieved a completion rate of 30%.

I know our staff are really proud of how hard their members worked to meet or exceed their mileage goals during the most recent Club PED offering, and I’m excited about the positive improvements the staff have worked hard to achieve.

The Feedback from Club PED

We get positive feedback from this program each time we run it. I don’t know if it’s our staff, the program’s simplicity, the low threshold for entry, the easy-to-use online portal, or a combination of those factors. Regardless, we’re always honored by the unsolicited compliments we receive. Here are a few examples of the ways this simple initiative has helped to improve members’ lives:

Thank you so much for the program. Because of it, I bought a Fitbit and continue to wear it daily. Can’t say I move as much as when I’ve had jobs out of the house, but I am [more] aware of my steps and take more breaks to move around.

—Dana, Ohio

 

I have been faithful to my walking, getting 4 to 5 miles per week. This Club PED program really helps me focus on my health and on keeping my blood pressure down. Staying healthy is my life change.

—Latongi, Georgia

 

To learn more about Club PED or other programming that our corporate fitness management staff can bring to your worksite, contact me.

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program corporate fitness walking employee health and fitness data

Why Capturing Corporate Fitness Center ROI Is Like Spotting a Unicorn

unicornFact:

Generating reliable and accurate ROI on a corporate wellness program (I mean the whole thing--biometric screenings, absenteeism, presenteeism, HRA, wellness programming/activities, EAP, etc.) is really, really, really challenging. It requires lots of money, and lots of really smart people who’ve done that kind of work more than once or twice.

Fact:

Piecing out the impact of your corporate fitness center as a standalone element and then determining reliable and accurate ROI from that single piece of your overall strategy is, well, about as likely as spotting a unicorn.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But wait…I just saw an article on ROI for corporate fitness and that said 3:1 or 5:1 or 7:1 returns were possible. What’s with the unicorns and the impossibility of calculating ROI for corporate fitness?” It’s true that there is a continuous stream of articles about wellness ROI, and I suspect that there are business development teams for corporate wellness vendors who are armed to the gills with literature that “proves” why their service/product generates the best ROI for said client.

You see, there’s a lot of posturing in the corporate wellness market. The industry boasts some very powerful vendors--some of whom have the money and smarts to do the work required in order to generate reliable and accurate ROI. The industry also has a lot of other vendors who don’t have those tools, but who are still competing against those who do. Of this second group, there are two types: the vendor who reports ROI that is neither reliable nor accurate (unicorn anyone?), and the vendor who doesn’t report ROI.

Honestly, it’s time for employers to stop beating the ROI drum. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Read this article, or this one, or this one.)

ROI is hard to capture because corporate wellness is complex. There are a lot of moving parts, and to date, the industry has not been able to come together on metrics that are consistent. While this is true for most of the agreed-upon elements of a corporate wellness strategy, let’s just pull out corporate fitness to get a sense of the level of complexity we’re dealing with overall.

There are a variety of data points that can be captured for corporate fitness programs:

Membership:

Any vendor worth its salt will have some kind of prescreening process in place that, once completed, will allow the employee to join the fitness center. (Don’t just take my word for it; check out the standards provided by the American College of Sports Medicine in its Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines text.) Some vendors skip this process and everyone is instantly a member because they are employees. So the organization with this process instantly reports higher membership (100%!) than the vendor who requires a responsible process be completed prior to gaining membership.

Fitness assessments:

Field tests to assess the fitness level of a participant are highly variable and the chosen tests can sway the results depending on the population. It’s the nature of a field test; they aren’t as accurate as in the lab.

Visit data:

By now, software to track utilization is widely available at fairly minimal cost. However, if the business isn’t willing to pay for the software, fitness staff are left to track visit data with a manual tally. In either case, software or sign-in sheets, there are issues that can result in significant errors in data collection. Even if we forgive those errors or find a way to account for them, vendors count visit groups differently. “Frequent visitors” might be represented by members with at least one visit per month for vendor A, but vendor B may determine that at least one visit per week is required to achieve “frequent visitor” status.

Mixing those variables quickly creates a lot of inconsistency from one program to the next, making it exceptionally hard to compare apples to apples. Then you have other related data to consider—like gym membership subsidy and how to count employee-users of that benefit against or with your corporate fitness center users. Similarly, how do you capture the value, health benefits, and cost of employees who never step foot in the corporate fitness center but maintain their own exercise regimen at home?

So if your CFO isn’t going to sniff out ROI on your corporate wellness strategy or any of the individual elements like your worksite fitness center, what should you be looking to for data and outcomes you can believe? Rest assured, I’m not suggesting we revert back to all fluff and feel-good for employee wellness. As an alternative to traditional ROI, consider shifting your thinking toward value. To find out more about what I mean, check a two-part blog I wrote about a year ago where I outlined some ways to think about value from your corporate fitness center. You can read part one here and part two here.

If you're looking for how to build the very best corporate fitness center you can for your employees, consider our short webinar series:  The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers.

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers
Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness centers corporate fitness managment ROI data collection corporate fitness centers; return on investement data

4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use, Part 2

set goalsPart 2: Your Program Is Set Up... Now What?

In the first part of this blog, we talked about key strategies to set your program up for success. Remember “begin at the beginning” and “map out the ‘how’”? If you’re still intent on getting data you can actually use from your wellness program, keep reading to learn what do to now that you’re ready to run the initiative.

#3: Stick to the Plan

This seems so obvious, so I won’t spend much time on it. Here’s the thing: you spend a lot of time mapping out the goals and the objectives to achieve those goals, and then you design your program around that outline. For heaven’s sake, stick to the plan. Implement the program as close to the original design as possible. If you get into the offering and you find a fatal flaw in the plan, change what you must, but in order for your evaluation to be true, educational, and actionable, you need to stick to the plan.

#4: Evaluate and Report

Drum roll, please. We’re about to get to the goods, so stick with me here. So, you set up your goals, you map out how you will accomplish the goals, you craft your program accordingly, you bravely stick with the plan, and then when it’s all over, you evaluate how you did.

We think about your post-program evaluation in two ways:

  1. Overall effectiveness of the program: We calculate how we communicated the program, how many people we reached, how accurately we ran the initiative, how many people completed the program, etc. All of that gets folded together into a program-impact score. The numbers that feed into the impact score and the score itself allow for year-over-year (or program-over-program) comparisons for effectiveness over time.
  2. Achievement of our goals: If we set up the goals correctly so that they were measureable, and we ran the program knowing the data we needed, we should be able to figure out whether we reached our goals.

In addition to crunching some basic numbers, our staff members are responsible for reporting their program results to their supervisor, who then works with the manager on developing strategies for future program improvements. The supervisor also makes sure that best practice information is shared among other staff so that important lessons learned can be used by everyone. After all, if you hit on some brilliant technique for communicating with the audience you need to reach, shouldn’t the entire community working with that audience benefit from your success?

We’ve been following The Wellness Challenge program as an example throughout these two blogs. So let me wrap up with some of the juicy data Reggie, the manager responsible for this initiative, was able to gather based on pre- and post-program evaluation.

Straight from Reggie’s report, here are his proposed changes for the next The Wellness Challenge offering, as well as his quick summary of his goals:

Goal Report:

  • Goal 1: Have at least 80 participants with approximately 1/4 of them being staff. Did not fully meet: Had only 72 participants, but 29% were employees.
  • Goal 2: Increase class participation totals by 15% and increase fitness center visits by 250 per month throughout the challenge. Goal met: Increased class size by 65% over prior 2 months and increased FC visits by 435 compared to prior 2 months.
  • Goal 3: Increase fitness center membership by 10 members (5 residents and 5 staff) during the challenge. Did not meet: Increased staff membership by 3 and resident membership by 2.

For next year to improve overall program impact:

  • Make the teams smaller.
  • Give 1 point/minute walked.
  • Establish a volunteer limit.
  • Hold an orientation/team meet-and-greet before the challenge starts.
  • Reconsider food point system to possibly include fruit.
  • Reconsider prizes. Try giving away less money.

So Reggie learned he’s got some work to do if he folds those same unmet goals into next year’s offering. He’ll need to revamp his strategies. He’s already well on his way to crafting that plan because he has this complete outline on which to build an improved The Wellness Challenge.

How Are You Evaluating Your Programs?

Certainly there’s more than one way to skin this evaluation cat. How are you doing it? What are you learning? Program evaluation is only one element of a first-rate wellness strategy. Communicating a strong wellness brand, having quality physical spaces for where your initiatives can occur, and cultivating amazing wellness staff are all central to a fabulous program.

Improve your programs >

 

 

Topics: NIFS senior wellness programs senior fitness management program evaluation data

4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use

NIFS | Wellness DataPart 1: Setting Your Program Up for Success

I think our staff members roll their eyes every time they hear me start talking about gathering data from our programs. That might be because I talk about it a lot; it might also be because I’m a little bit of a geek about data. Regardless, they can eye-roll all they want, because when the data gathering and program evaluation is done right, well, it’s a beautiful thing! 

Let me explain by using an example from a program that recently wrapped up at one of our senior living client locations. “The Wellness Challenge” has been offered for two years at the community. It’s a good wellness survey type of program that encourages residents to dig into all dimensions of wellness. There are several positive and important elements to The Wellness Challenge:

  • It’s a team challenge, so there’s potential for socialization built into the fabric of the program.
  • The program is open to residents and employees, so there is a very real buzz at the community, with individuals across the campus engaged in the challenge.
  • It capitalizes on the healthy resolution wave that follows the indulgence that is the end-of-the-year holiday time.
  • The challenge runs that perfect, sweet-spot length of seven weeks. (We find that most programs of this type are ideally suited to run somewhere between six to eight weeks.)

Now, to be fair, this program was not the brainchild of the current NIFS manager, Reggie. However, he was able to take the original offering from his predecessor, which involved no evaluation strategy, and transform it so that we have both a rich offering for the client, and actionable data that will inform future offerings of both this program and others like it.

What, you ask, is actionable data? Good question! In this two-part blog, we’ll look at four tips for getting the data you want from your wellness program. Part 1 focuses on the before-you-launch-the-program elements (tips #1 and #2). Part 2 will focus on during-the-program and post-program components (tips #3 and #4).

#1: Begin at the Beginning

The whole evaluation and data thing starts by being strategic with the program on the front end. That’s right; we are moving away from running fun programs just to run them (shocking, I know). The staff members actually set program goals before they run the program and then they make sure that the program they’re offering is set up in a way to allow for evaluation of those goals.

  • You can’t assess your progress on the goals if they aren’t actually measureable. This sounds intuitive, but people miss the boat on it all the time. Establish goals that are S.M.A.R.T. For more on this concept, check out this blog.
  • Create goals that tie back to your overall program goals. For example, if you’re trying to increase visits to your group exercise classes, establish a goal to increase overall class attendance, or maybe focus on how many new people you can get into class with this program. (If you’re lacking focus for your overall wellness program, you probably should start there before you dig too deeply into meaningless goals for programs that don’t connect back to a larger strategy.)
  • Keep the list fairly short. This isn’t a research study with all kinds of grant money and data heads behind it. Stick to what you know, and keep the goals manageable in terms of volume; two to three goals per program has worked for us.
  • Before you get too far ahead of yourself with lofty, complicated goals that make you sound really smart, you also need to be sure you have the tools to measure the goals. In truth, most of our staff are operating with fairly traditional supports. We use a lot of spreadsheets (though not infinitely complex ones), and in some cases we have software that helps with visit reporting, etc.

#2: Map Out the “How”

You’ve established these two to three program goals. They are succinct; they tie back to your overall wellness program focus; they are written on a scale you can support. Great job! Now it’s time to map out your plan to actually achieve those goals.

No, it’s not enough to outline the goals and then just run the program. That’s like pulling up to the shooting range and saying, “Ready…Fire!” Forgetting to aim means you will most likely miss your target―unless you are extremely lucky.

For example, if you set a goal to increase group fitness class attendance by 15% for the duration of the program, you need to outline the steps you will take to achieve that goal. In the case of The Wellness Challenge, Reggie built the program so that participation in group classes was weighted more heavily than some other activities, and he gave more points for participating in cardiovascular exercise (which, he emphasized, could be achieved by taking classes). In short, he incentivized what he was trying to drive people to do. (Genius, I know!)

You won’t want to miss part 2 of this blog, where we look into how to run the program and what to do when it’s over.

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Topics: NIFS senior wellness programs senior fitness management program evaluation data