Employee Wellbeing

5 Reasons Why your Employee Wellbeing programmes Fail

It’s fair to say that most of us don’t start to fail. Failure is something we avoid, something we don’t want to see happening. But, sometimes we overlook simple factors that can make all the difference between success and failure. As most of us know, employee wellbeing programmes can lead to higher productivity and a healthier work environment. This has been once again validated by recent research. Recent research has shown that organisational productivity is related to performance, well-being, and employee satisfaction. But most employee wellbeing programmes fail to achieve the desired outcome.

Trust me, oversight of something that is considered trivial can derail a good program. So, here are five reasons that I have identified from my experience as to why your employee wellbeing programme might not be doing too hot.  

1. Where’s the strategy?  

 When it comes to an emotive subject like wellbeing, asking some basic questions like why we are doing this, how can we do it and what benefit it will provide to the individual and our bottom line can flame heated discussions. More often than not, the desire is there, the intention is there, but the strategy isn’t. Unfortunate but common. Understanding the importance of employee wellbeing is only the first hurdle.

If there isn’t a plan, if there aren’t ongoing discussions, implementing change management or not including human resources in the process, the initiative will be cut down before it starts. A well thought out, and researched strategy will increase employee experience. Engagement is a critical factor in making sure your employee wellbeing programme succeeds. Strategy means taking the time to understand what change is needed, what the end goal looks like and knowing how the organisation will get there.  

 2. NOT on the same page  

 We perceive the world we are in through our mental models and understanding. Perceptions shape perspectives. When we are not on the same page, even a well-intended action can be perceived as toxic. The challenge is to ensure that what we intend to do or say is understood the same way by the recipient. Communication, therefore, plays a vital role.

Communication is not about sender’s satisfaction; it is about the receiver’s clarity. 

Ram Raghavan

Lack of communication can harm any business. To ensure your employee wellbeing initiative hits the ground running and more importantly, works long term, change management must be applied to cascade the message across the whole company. So that human resources are not only told to bring in wellbeing initiatives but understand why it is essential.

Often, we see wellbeing initiatives fail because the idea behind it has not been appropriately communicated. A fundamental shift in values is a significant change and will only be successful when it is understood and appreciated fully. Increased employee engagement will only come when the benefits behind the changes are understood and communicated correctly.   

 3. Everyone in one little box  

 We live in a reductionist world. The reductionist view of the world helps us deal with complexity. Labelling is something we use consciously and subconsciously to help make sense of the world. Now we inherently understand that people are different. The diversity of our world is what makes it so special, but at Riddlebox, we often experience firms ignoring this simple knowledge.

Plainly stated one size doesn’t fit all. While Henry Ford had the luxury of saying you can have any colour of the car as long it is black, we cannot approach people with a one size fits all narrative. If you are to look at potato crisps, you have the french fries, the crinkled fries, the wedges, the double-fried chips, the oven chips and so on. If we have so many options for a humble dish, why should you believe that something like a wellbeing initiative can be a one size fits all thing.  

A successful employee wellbeing initiative will not only understand this but embrace it. One size doesn’t fit all, and an employee wellbeing initiative that tries to fit everyone in one little box will ultimately fail. Different people require different things. Employee wellbeing programmes that fail to recognise the importance and beauty in diversity are programmes that don’t lead to better organisational development. Embrace the differences; it will serve you well.  

4. Faking it  

 Creating a positive culture in the work environment goes beyond words; it goes beyond speeches and emails claiming to care. Humans are highly responsive and can pick up on the slightest and smallest pieces of body language, communication and action. If leaders in an organisation are not fully committed or do not care about their employee’s wellbeing, it will be painfully clear to all.

This situation is not just something for human resources to deal with; it needs to be a core value change. Employee relations and engagement will not improve if they sense their leaders are faking it. For improved organisational development, your employee wellbeing programme needs its leaders to walk the talk truly.   

5. What measurements?  

 You can’t bake a delicious cake without measuring the ingredients. Measuring the effectiveness of employee wellbeing initiatives is no different. What’s the point in making changes if we don’t measure them?

Practising change management to shift the values of an entire organisation is a big undertaking, but without implementing proper measurement techniques is a pointless game to play. Getting human resources on board to appreciate and value the wellbeing programme is vital. They must understand that employee engagement and experience needs to be measured before and during the employee wellbeing programme.

Applying appropriate measurement techniques to track the impact on individual performance is the only way to see results. There’s no way to know what the plan is doing if you don’t measure it. I am not talking about going mad on measurement. Most companies measure a lot of things but are unable to generate insights that matter. It is not the quantity but the quality of the measures that matter.

Ask why you need to measure that, understand what it will improve and how and what knowledge or additional piece of evidence will emerge to support your wellbeing strategy. If you cannot describe it easily, then you are measuring the wrong thing.   

Any Other Reasons Employee Wellbeing Programmes Fail? 

In an earlier article, we spoke about the link between employee wellbeing and Engagement. If we look at some of the factors that cause wellbeing programs to fail, they are also seen as key eroders of engagement. These are some of our 5 most commonly made mistakes that stop employee wellbeing programmes from reaping full rewards. If you can think of more reasons please mention them in the comments section.

employee wellbeing program failing reasons

At KAYA , we help our clients enhance their employee productivity and improve retention. If you would like us to help you with your wellbeing initiatives, please contact us on for a free consultation.

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