How to get the most out of your corporate health risk appraisal (HRA)

10 Dec How to get the most out of your corporate health risk appraisal (HRA)

HRA: a vital success factor in any corporate health program

HRA corporate health riskAn HRA, or corporate health risk appraisal, is an absolutely-must-do first step in a corporate health program.

Also called a health risk assessment or employee health assessment, a good HRA will give you an indepth snapshot of the health risks in your organisation. It will:

  • give you an evidence-based business case for investing in a proper corporate health program.
  • show you where you need to prioritise your attention. This includes:
    • which health issues need the most attention
    • which departments or locations are particularly high risk.
  • reveal what health habits might be contributing to the problem.


Avoid these mistakes with your health risk assessment

Yet if they’re not done well, HRAs can cause their own risks. You risk turning off your employees before they even start your corporate health program.

Here are some common mistakes made by organisations when they roll out an HRA:

  1. Not promoting or explaining it well, so it seems invasive.
  2. Giving feedback that sounds like lecturing
  3. Not getting stats on the right things that can actually help you improve productivity.
  4. Not using the momentum to your advantage.
  5. Making it too long, or too hard to understand.

And this is what you can do about it.

How you can make your investment in an HRA really work for you.

  1. The content of the questions

Make sure your questionnaire covers both physical and mental health. Mental health would include indicators such as sleep, stress, social support and life satisfaction.

Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions. If you want to know about diabetes, ask. Likewise, ask about depression and anxiety. While some employees may not answer honestly, you won’t know at all if you don’t ask.

Focus on health habits. Health habits are the little lifestyle factors that shape a person’s health – what they eat, how much they exercise and so on. The reason is that health habits can be changed. In fact, that’s the whole point of a good corporate health program – to create positive health habits that reduce risk of chronic disease and increase productivity.

So, when you do your HRA again next year, you can clearly see the improvements your program has made in employee health habits.

  1. The content of the feedback

Giving immediate feedback to employees about their answers is a simple but powerful way to motivate change.

Make sure your HRA includes some kind of score or report card for each question. That way employees can see where they are compared to recommended scores. This often gives a much-need nudge to make a change.

Then, make sure your HRA gives tailored advice based on each possible answer. The advice needs to be empathetic and practical. This is not the time to lecture people. For example, if someone has answered that they exercise less than once a week, there’s  no point telling them to get 30 mins of vigorous activity five times a week. It will only turn them off.

Instead, give them tips on ways to add more movement into their day, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or walking 20 minutes at lunchtime.

  1. Communication & marketing.

You can’t just suddenly send employees to a site, or give them a paper questionnaire,  that asks personal questions about their mental health, eating habits and alcohol usage. They simply won’t respond.

You need to promote, explain and encourage.


Promote the HRA as an exciting first step in improving their health; and of course as an exciting first step in your corporate health program. Get employees enthused about it.


Explain the purpose of the HRA – for your employees, as well as for your organisation. Explain that it will give them a great snapshot of their current health, and will give them ideas on things they can do to feel even better. Explain that your organisation will use the aggregate data to make decisions about what activities they’ll be doing that year.

Just as importantly, you need to emphasise just how incredibly private it is. This can’t be overstated. You’ll be asking personal questions about stress, mental health and health habits, and you need employees to answer honestly. Most employees will believe they’ll be identified, even if their name isn’t on it.

Make it clear that the report you receive will not make it possible to identify anyone.


The more employees who do your HRA, the better your data.

Look at ways to incentivise employees to take part. While incentives might be a bit over the top in the US, they do work for participation (not so much for engagement, but that’s a topic for another blog). For example, all employees who do the HRA by a certain time go into a draw to win a great prize.

  1. Create momentum

Your HRA is a first step: use it as such. Straight after the HRA, roll onto your next corporate wellness activity.

If you’re using an online platform, this is a literal “next click”. For example, in Activate, once an employee completes their HRA, they are taken to the home page, where they can see and start doing that month’s activity, plus get access to all the content and functionality. (In Activate, an employee must do the HRA, called MyHealthCheck, before they have access to the rest of the platform).

Certainly, you need to wait for your formal HRA report to strategically plan out your annual program, but there are activities that you can start straight away. These could be based on common issues, such as stress, or physical activity.


Want to try our HRA? It’s called MyHealthCheck and it’s part of our Activate platform. We can set you up with a personal free trial of activate. Call us on 1300 90 10 90 or email us at

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