People are leaving organizations because they believe their employers do not care about them.  A recent Gallup poll revealed that only about a third of workers—down from nearly half less than a year prior—believe that their organization cares about their overall wellbeing.

It can be tempting to dive right into available solutions, and there are hundreds of thousands of options in the employee wellness marketplace.  But employers who dive into the market often find themselves frustrated with a lack of engagement and results from these initiatives.

“When you make an assumption,” writes Toba Beta, “you are preparing room for error.”

Most employers have embraced the axiomatic conclusion that happier, healthier employees make for a more productive, profitable company.  Their next and logical step has been to implement programs designed to improve mental, physical, and financial outcomes for their people.  There is just one problem with this approach: it has been an abject failure.

Workers are less healthy and more burnt out than ever before.  Health care costs continue to rise at unsustainable paces for both employers and employees.  People worry about money more than ever.  Despite the continued increases in spending and focus on workplace wellness, the outcomes simply are not there for employers or employees.

One of the biggest reasons is the failure to understand the real challenges at an individual level.  We know that people are sick, stressed, and leaving their jobs like never before.  People do not want to be unhappy and unhealthy, so throwing benefits at them that are essentially just programs that tell them to do what they already know they should be doing is unsurprisingly ineffective.

The first step, then, is to define problems at the individual level.  Through confidential, individual questions, it is possible to discover what the real challenge is for each person.  This means asking questions and offering guidance instead of one-size-fits-all resources.  Companies who have instituted mandatory, ongoing wellbeing programs where workers have regular, on-the-clock interactions with people who can personalize pathways to progress are finding massive success.

In practice, these initiatives start with the same outcomes in mind: decreasing heart and blood pressure issues; helping people have more active, healthier lifestyles; improving mental health; and helping achieve meaningful financial and personal progress.  The difference is in the first step—asking the individual what the real challenge is for them.

If employers want to prove they care, they need to start by helping people define their challenges in personal terms, and only then can they supply the requisite resources and guidance to empower and achieve the outcomes we know people want.