You're no stranger to investing in employees. To secure top talent, you know you need to offer a good mix of benefits--a rewarding culture, good pay, sufficient time off, and opportunities for continuing education and advancement.

But companies are now investing their dollars in another area: health.

With an employee wellness program, you can incentivize a healthier lifestyle and combat rising healthcare costs. In addition, a wellness program demonstrates your commitment to your employees, and that positive gesture can motivate them to improve their performance. In fact, employee performance increases by as much as 22 percent with financial or tangible rewards--including wellness programs.

Unfortunately, many companies have a tendency to jump into such initiatives without giving serious thought to development and implementation. If you don't spend time thinking about these factors, your program's chances of success are slim.

Before committing your company to a wellness program, ask yourself five simple questions:

1. Is it legal? This should be the first question you ask. If your wellness program alienates certain groups of employees, penalizes rather than incentivizes, or requires employees to meet specific health standards (a big no-no according to the Americans with Disabilities Act), it might be considered discriminatory. If this is the case, go back to the drawing board.

2. Do company policies support the program? While developing a wellness program, you need to assess whether company policies might undermine your efforts. For example, paid time off should promote a healthier workplace, not impede it. If employees are made to feel guilty for taking time off, that's not good for their physical or mental health.

3. Does it protect privacy? Many wellness programs require health assessments. This is a seemingly harmless step, but it might be misconstrued as policing off-site behavior. In addition, once the program starts, you must decide how to protect privacy when employees communicate their performance.

4. What's the cap? The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers to cap incentives in wellness programs so non-participation is not deemed a "penalty." Currently, incentives cannot exceed 30 percent of the total cost of coverage. The maximum incentive for tobacco cessation is 50 percent.

5. Will employees actually participate? Although you can't mandate good health, you can develop an intuitive wellness program that will boost the likelihood of participation. Using an operating system for benefits can make it easier for employees to opt in and participate via wearables and mobile apps. These types of benefits platforms also provide employers with a central location for wellness program information.

These questions will help you determine whether you're ready to implement a wellness program. If you push ahead, just remember: Not everyone is used to wellness in the workplace. Start slowly, and gently nudge people to participate. Doing otherwise is one of the quickest ways to ensure lackluster results--even with the easiest and most intuitive wellness programs.

Published on: May 11, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.