Step 4: Create an operating plan

If you do it right, this stage should take longer than any other stage. Planning forces you to sort through the details in advance. It may take up to three to four months to work on a comprehensive, successful wellness plan.


Incentives can help you motivate employees to participate. Health behavior can be extremely difficult to change and incentives can help encourage people to initiate and maintain health-related behaviors. Unless employees in your worksite can identify real incentives or reasons to change their current health behaviors, they are not likely to change. Check out the resource listing in this section for more incentive ideas.

Why it's important

  • Allows you to understand the "what, why and when" of your program.
  • Empowers you to move forward and get things done.
  • Helps inform management.
  • Keeps everyone focused on the goal.

What to include in your operating plan

  1. Vision/mission statement. It can be as short as one to two sentences. For example, one large health care system chose "Health From Hire To Retire."
  2. Goals and objectives. Goal statements describe in broad terms what is to be accomplished. Objectives are precise statements that describe the changes necessary to reach a goal.

    When writing goals, use measurable language such as "increase" or "decrease." Make your objectives SMART—Specific. Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time sensitive. For example, by December 2011, 75% of all vending machine options will be "healthy" options.

    Examples of goals and objectives together:

    Goal 1: Our employees will have access to healthy food choices at the workplace.

    • Objective 1: By December 2012, 75% of all vending machine options will be healthy options.
    • Objective 2: By March 2013, 100% of our workplace meetings that offer food will include healthy options.

    Goal 2: Our workplace will be infant-friendly.

    • Objective 1: By July 2012, at least one private section of the workplace will be identified for moms to express breast milk.
    • Objective 2: By September 2012, a written policy outlining the accommodations and benefits available to employees who are breastfeeding their babies exists in the HR manual.
  3. Timelines. Drive what needs to be accomplished and when it needs to be done. Don't make your timeline so aggressive that you feel overwhelmed, but don't make it so easy that people lose interest.
  4. Roles and responsibilities. Use the strengths and talents of your team. Decide who are the "people" people, the "task" people and the "thinker/analyzer" people. Be sure to assign jobs that work with people's natural strengths. Don't give a "thinker" jobs that require relating to people.
  5. Itemized budget. Decide what to include and what must be left out. Include the cost of everything: staff time, time for employees to be allowed to participate, team strategic planning meeting, health risk appraisals, brochures, incentives, and so on. WELCOA estimates you may need to spend $100-$150 per employee each year to get a return on investment of $300-$450.
  6. Approval from management. Helps ensure your goals and objectives align with those of the organization.
  7. Marketing and communications strategies. Mix of written, oral and electronic messages to inform employees.
  8. Evaluation. Outline how to measure and evaluate the results from your program. Include participation, participant satisfaction, changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, and changes in environment and culture. Be sure to link your evaluation methods directly to your program's goals and objectives.

Planning resources you can use

Step 5: Choose interventions »