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The Surprising Reasons Your Wellness Vendor Relationships Aren’t Working

You know the story. They have all the right stuff. Attractive prices. A stellar reputation. Really had their act together. It seemed like the perfect fit. And then, after some time where it just didn’t take off like you thought it would, you fired them.

Vendor churn is a big challenge for the wellness industry. We all know the best results come from long-term partnerships and consistent delivery. It’s hard to ask employees to adjust to new wellness programs every year, whether it’s getting comfortable trusting a new brand or learning how to navigate a new portal. Yet that is an all too common outcome. Vendors come, and vendors go. There’s a leadership change and with it a new vendor. There’s not enough engagement with the vendor’s tools, so we replace them with a different provider. The switching scenarios are endless, and vendors are typically left to be the scapegoats of these failed relationships.

But here’s a hard truth for all of us on the other side of this equation. In many cases, it’s not them (the vendor), it’s us (the organization). We’re the problem. To that end, here are four scenarios when a failing program says more about an organization’s overall approach to wellness than it does the performance of a selected wellness vendor. So, let’s take a quick look in the mirror and see if we need to give ourselves some tough love before we get back out there and search for another partner.

You Don’t Know What You Need

So, you need to build a new wellness program or breathe life into an existing one. Step one should not be searching for a vendor, but often that’s what we do. We rush to find our new partner before we have clarity about what we really want and need.

Instead, take the time to critically examine what’s been working with your past wellness efforts and where gaps or blind spots might exist. Gain buy-in and support from senior leaders on the key goals for wellness and priorities for the year ahead. Clarify, solidify and align your vision with internal stakeholders first, and then you can find an external partner who is a good fit and can meet your organization’s needs. How can you make an informed decision about vendor selection without gaining internal clarity?

You’re Not Ready

Many times, an organization is not healthy enough to sustain a successful wellness initiative. It might be a lack of leadership support or culture in need of repair. For a number of reasons, your organization might not be a viable environment for wellness at the moment. If that’s the case, there is no vendor on earth who can make a dent in your wellness program needs. Not until you properly address these internal challenges. Yet, often we bring vendors into our organizations and set them up to fail because we’re really not ready to commit to wellness, and our culture is not yet ready to embrace wellness at a foundational level.

You’re Not Being a Good Partner

They promised a turn-key solution. They turned the key, but someone needs to drive the bus. There should be accountability and responsibility on both sides of this relationship. No vendor can be successful without you being a true partner. Are you spending quality time with the vendor? Is there open communication? Are you listening to what they are sharing in terms of program feedback and challenges they are facing? Are you fulfilling the vows you made earlier in the process? If you aren’t actively participating and instead choose to leave it all on the vendor, you will not be satisfied with the outcome.

You’re Expecting too Much

You can’t bring all your organizational burdens to your wellness provider and expect them to fix them. Be realistic in terms of the impact any one vendor can have on your organization, and keep in mind the points above that there may be very real and significant obstacles preventing the vendor from performing to your standards.

As wellness professionals, we have a shift to make. We can’t be so quick to assign 100% of the blame on vendor partners when we come up short. If we weren’t clear, if we didn’t provide a solid foundation, and if we didn’t collaborate effectively, it isn’t accurate to say the reason we failed was that we chose the wrong partner. Just as importantly, our programs can’t be solely defined by our relationship with a vendor partner. We need to realize that thinking about wellness goes far beyond vendor selection. I was talking with a very seasoned and smart wellness pro the other day. She told me, “I think I’ve done all I can do. We put a wellness vendor in place. We set up an incentive program. We’re done.” But she’s missing some important pieces to the puzzle.

Moving forward, we must gain clarity around our organizational needs. We must have a deep awareness of how conducive our environment is for wellness, and what strengths and weaknesses we are bringing to the table. We need a solid starting point for our overall strategy. And then, we can find quality partners who can help us set a long-term plan and augment the skills and bandwidth of our internal teams to successfully execute our programs. If we do this, we will set ourselves, and vendor partners, up for success by ensuring the company is ready to take wellness to the next level and partner effectively with outside experts. And we just might live happily ever after.

Wondering how you can take a solid next step to ensure you’re ready to meet your perfect partner? Complete the Well Workplace Checklist for a full diagnostic analysis of your organization’s specific wellness needs and the insights you need to find the perfect vendor fit for your team.