(March 14) This is the first in a series looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the HERO Outcomes Guidelines report, recently released by the Wellness Ignorati. One explanatory note: A comment accused us of insulting the Wellness Ignorati by calling them that. It is not an insult. It describes their brilliant strategy of ignoring facts and encouraging their supporters to do the same. We are very impressed by the disclipline with which they have executed this strategy, and will be providing many examples. However, if they prefer a different moniker to describe their strategy, they should just let us know.
We encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this report, the magnum opus of the Wellness Ignorati. Unlike the Ignorati, we are huge advocates of transparency and debate (which they call “bullying”). We want employers to see both sides and decide for themselves what makes sense, rather than spoon-feed them selected misinformation and pretend facts don’t exist.
The latter is the strategy of the Wellness Ignorati. Indeed, they earned their moniker by making the decision to consistently ignore inconvenient facts. (This is actually a smart move on their part, given that basically every fact about wellness is inconvenient for them.) For example, they just wrote 87 pages on wellness outcomes measurement without admitting our existence, even though we wrote the only book — an award-winning trade best-seller — on wellness outcomes measurement. Observing the blatant suppression of facts and the loss of credibility that comes with blatantly suppressing facts is just one of the many reasons to read this report. In total, their report provides a far more compelling argument against pry, poke, prod and punish programs than we ourselves have ever made, simply by bungling the (admittedly impossible) argument in favor of them.
There is too much fodder for us to deconstruct in one posting, so over the next several weeks we will highlight aspects of this report that we think are especially revealing about the sorry state of the wellness industry.
In terms of getting off to a good start, the Ignorati are right up there with Hillary Clinton, with their first self-immolation appearing on Page 10. Remember our mantra from Surviving Workplace Wellness: In wellness, you don’t have to challenge the data to invalidate it. You merely have to read the data. It will invalidate itself.
And sure enough…
Ironically, the first self-immolation is the direct result of that rarest of qualities among the Ignorati: integrity. We were shocked by the revelation that the Ignorati actually realize that employee morale and a company’s reputation both suffer when companies institute wellness programs – but here is the screenshot. Both morale and reputation are listed, as “tangential costs.”
Try telling a CEO that the morale of his workforce and his corporate reputation are “tangential” to his business. We ourselves run a company, and we would not list low morale as a “tangential cost.” Quite the opposite — our entire business depends on our employees’ intrinsic motivation to do the best job they can. If their morale suffers, our profit suffers. That’s why we would never institute a wellness program. The last thing we want to do is impact our morale in order to measure our employees’ body fat. Obviously, it is harder to hire and retain people if you value body fat measurement over job performance, and we are pleased to see the ignorati finally admit this.
Why, having now read this revelation in the ignoratis’ own words, that wellness is bad for morale, would any company still want to “do wellness”? Or as we say in Cracking Health Costs, “If you’re a general, would you rather have troops with high morale or troops with low cholesterol?”
The fact that employees hate wellness isn’t exactly a news flash. Anytime there is an article in the lay press, the public rails against wellness — or “bullies” the wellness industry, to use the term that the Ignorati use for people who disagree with them publicly. You don’t have to look far—just back to HuffPost on Wednesday. Or All Things Considered.
Obviously, if you have to bribe employees to do something (or fine them if they don’t), it’s because they don’t like it. If employees would rather sacrifice considerable sums of money than be pried, poked and prodded, they are sending you a message: “This is a stupid idea we want nothing to do with.”
The news flash is that this whole business of “making employees happy whether they like it or not,” as we say in Surviving Workplace Wellness is now acknowledged – by the Ignorati as a group — to be a charade.
HERO and Mercer seem to have exhausted their integrity quota pretty quickly, because after that welcome and long-overdue and delightfully shocking admission, they slip back into character.
Specifically, in their listing of costs, they conveniently forgot a bunch of direct, indirect and “tangential” costs. Like consulting fees. Generally, the less competent and/or honest the consultants, the more they charge. (For instance, we can run an RFP for $40,000 or less, and measure outcomes for $15,000 or less — and do both to the standards of the esteemed and independent GE-Intel Validation Institute. Most other consultants can’t match either the price or the outcome.) We’re not calling any consulting firm incompetent or dishonest other than pointing to a few examples that speak for themselves, but it does seem more than coincidental that the consultants involved in this report have conveniently forgotten to include their own fees as a cost.
And what about the costs of overdiagnosis caused by overscreening far in excess of US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines? The cost of going to the doctor when you aren’t sick, against the overwhelming advice of the research community?
Still, we need to give credit where credit is due, so we must thank the Ignorati for acknowledging that wellness harms morale. It took even less time for this acknowledgement than for the tobacco companies to admit that smoking causes cancer.