“What about the employees that won’t participate?” This question was posed by a benefits manager during a conference presentation I recently gave in Northern California. It is usually on the minds of benefits and wellness professionals and too often dictates strategy. Many companies choose to do nothing (because a few employees will not participate) or implement a weak program in hopes of higher participation. This always fascinates and frustrates me. My response to the question seemed to catch the audience off guard at first but was followed by smiles, nodding heads and a sigh of relief as if to express “finally, someone saying what we are thinking…”. Here is my response: “Forget about them. You could change the carpeting in the conference room from gray to light gray and these same people will send 400 emails complaining about the radical corporate culture changes being forced on them. They will lament over a $1 change in their dental plan and if offered a new computer, either black or gray, will complain that they wanted a red one. My point, there are just some people that will never be pleased and as difficult as it is to think of it this way, forget about this vocal minority. Haters gonna hate and frankly, do you care if a hater leaves your company? When I worked at GE, we hoped these people left and took their negative attitude and poor performance with them. Focus on the employees that are ready, willing and open minded - they drive your culture and ultimately your company’s success.”
I got a few laughs and, as I said, most of the audience nodded their heads and smiled. I even got an “Amen!” Why do we constantly develop programs for the least common denominator? Why do we let haters determine what other employees can or can’t do? Why do we let them dictate culture? Stop. As you consider any wellness program recognize that it is impossible to reach everyone but not unrealistic to reach many. Program design must allow for an individual and fully custom plan for each employee, not a one-size fits all program. Haters may still balk, but the rest of the team will find a solution that matches their current situation and meets their needs and goals for total well-being.