Perhaps you’ve had an experience similar to one I had, one of those life lessons that you never forget. I was working in a rather intense client situation with a large New York City financial services company. The company I was working foImager at the time was delivering a highly customized service, something we had never done before. And at that particular moment, we weren’t doing a great job for the client. I remember the client saying to me ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Seems pretty basic, right? But it served as that slap upside the head that told me I needed to focus on ways to measure what we were doing so we could tell the story of the services we were providing and how the client was benefiting.

Many years later, I think of this often in the work we do with worksite health promotion programs. Measuring and evaluating wellness programs is a critical success factor and a best practice.

Why measure and evaluate?

Measuring and evaluating your wellness program serves to:

  • Assist in improving the present program.  Getting regular and consistent feedback from participants allows you to make immediate adjustments to improve on meeting the needs of participants.
  • Demonstrate program value and magnitude of impact to senior management. With this information, the program coordinator is in an excellent position to use the results to educate senior management on the benefits of the workplace wellness program, and to secure their support for future program growth.
  • Justifying proposed budgets at budget planning sessions in the organization.  Without the data provided by evaluation efforts, securing future budget increases may be more difficult.
  • Planning future programming changes, it may be necessary to compare the efficacy of different interventions – the success of one intervention vs. another.  New approaches are always being developed and having comparative data will help in making decisions about which intervention is best for your population.

How to measure and evaluate?

When developing your plan for evaluation, think about measuring in three different areas: process, impact, and outcomes.

Process Evaluation

This type of evaluation is best used to assess the intervention content by looking at methods, program materials, instructors and participation rates. Evaluate how the process worked in developing the program

  • How the program is structured
  • How it is promoted
  • How it is funded
  • How decisions are made.

This is useful identifying a need to modify the marketing strategy, identifying how participants are targeted and how program facilitators are utilized and the effectiveness of materials used.

Impact Evaluation

This type of evaluation assesses the impact of the interventions on the population targeted.  It measures:

  • Have participants demonstrated any behavioral or biometric changes using objective measures such as blood pressure readings, HRAs and changes in the numbers of smokers.
  • Are there changes in knowledge, attitudes and behavior can also be measured using pre and post participation questionnaires.
  • Combine with biometric data for complete picture.
  • The results from impact evaluation may be used to guide program planning moving forward

Outcomes Evaluation

Every once in a while, we have to step back and look at the big picture. Outcomes evaluation helps us do this. The outcomes results we hope to measure are:

  • Have there been any changes in the organization such as cost-effectiveness, cost benefit and return on investment.
  • The variables to examine are productivity, absenteeism, employee moral and utilization of health care.
  • If it’s not feasible to do, existing literature may be used as support for the organizational benefits from program outcomes.
  • Typically outcome evaluation takes place yearly with a snapshot of the organization taken in the beginning compared to the snapshot a year later.

Where to start?

Start by taking the time to develop an evaluation strategy and plan. Use the same business planning processes you use for other aspects of your business to:

  • Determine evaluation objectives.
  • Identify the programmatic components to be evaluated.
  • Identify proposed evaluation methods for each program objective.
  • Identify evaluation tools.
  • Identify how the evaluation results will be used.

In the long run, when you are asked ‘is your program working and providing results’, your evaluation efforts will help you answer the question.