News

We’re Not Talking about the Same “Engagement” Thing

(Story by Henry Albrecht originally appeared in Huffington Post)

Limeade was like a misfit toy. We started to measure and improve well-being and engagement, and got thrown in the same toy box with a bunch of other corporate wellness programs.

But we felt different. We were a rebel in the world of corporate wellness. We said wellness was limiting. Superficial. Trite. It wasn’t getting the attention of the C-suite and worse — it wasn’t working. We offered programs at the request of our customers and sometimes out of fear of going belly up — that punished people more than they lifted them up. There were times we accepted a company’s lack of authentic commitment to their people. We shot ourselves in the foot. And shooting yourself in the foot hurts.

So we stopped. We even started bashing our own market in the hopes of driving change.

We pushed against programs designed only to lower healthcare costs. In fact, we went as far as saying if you’re only looking to lower health costs, we’re not the right partner for you.

We want to improve well-being and engagement. Because that’s what drives real results.

So, let’s clarify two things:

1. Well-being isn’t a fancy word for wellness It’s fundamentally different. At Limeade, we define well-being as feeling good and living with purpose. When we say well-being, we mean whole-person well-being — the physical, emotional, work and financial well-being of an individual. And you can’t have well-being in your workforce without committed whole-company support — at every level.

Conversely, “wellness” has become synonymous with physical health and prevention — great things to be sure, with solid (but not game-changing) ROI. Limeade thrives at improving nutrition, exercise and self-care. But we also know these are often the downstream results of the habits of whole-person well-being: Mindfulness, resilience, optimism, positive relationships, meaning at work, stress management, a supportive manager, a conducive workplace and the other pillars of the whole-person, whole-company approach.

Most of today’s wellness programs are all about carrots (vegetables and incentives both), sticks and economic tricks. They have a narrow focus on physical health — which feels irrelevant to most and punitive to some. They make people jump through hoops to earn rewards — with no immersive commitment to human beings and the work they’re doing. We know our programs aren’t perfect, but we’ve made an active decision to live our culture of improvement every day — for ourselves and for our customers.

This brings me to my second point.

2. What engagement isn’t In our world, the word “engagement” is thrown around loosely. The reality is we have a very specific way we think about engagement.

First, engagement is not program participation — how many people make how many clicks, actions or complete activities in what time frame. Participation is a leading indicator of more important things, like habit formation, well-being improvement and the bottom-line impact of an energized and committed workforce.

We also see the term “health engagement” in our space, which refers to the idea that a person (often referred to as a patient) takes an active role in managing their own health. This may be through doctor’s visits, preventive care, prescription compliance, etc. While this is important — and companies like Accolade are redefining it for employers — this is not what we mean when we say engagement either.

Third, in HR circles, people often refer to “discretionary effort” or “going above and beyond” as engagement. Companies who love performance (all companies I should think) get this. But although this is getting closer — it’s still not the real thing yet. We argue that going above and beyond is the result not the definition of real engagement.

What employee engagement is

When we say engagement we mean the deep connection and sense of purpose at work that creates extra energy and commitment.

Sometimes we refer to this as real engagement or “Big E” engagement to make it clear what we’re talking about. This is what employees want. This is what our customers want. This is the engagement that we’re striving for in everything we do.

You can feel in words like connection, purpose, energy and commitment, the obvious connections to well-being. Well-being is a lens that’s served Limeade well. And although engagement increases well-being and well-being increases engagement — we believe that, more often than not, well-being is a precursor to engagement.

We’ve been measuring this “Big E” engagement for over a decade, and we help customers take action to address it with our technology-based programs. We’re excited to see the market more interested in engagement.

We just wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page first.