If I were to take an informal poll about the biggest barriers to successful workplace wellness, I would wager that “low engagement” would be right at the top. Fortunately, there are many ways employers can improve engagement, and they may include rewards and incentives, workplace culture changes, and program promotion. However, there is one tricky but necessary component for a successful wellness strategy: leadership buy-in.
Why is leadership important to well-being?
All levels of an organization need to support the wellness strategy in order for it to be successful, and that includes senior management. The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) found a significant link between senior leadership buy-in and successful wellness programming.
However, leaders can be resistant to wellness. At the very least, they understandably have questions. Some of those questions may sound like the following:
“What do we want to get out of wellness? Are we saving money, and if so, where would we see the savings?” Leaders want to know what value on investment the organization will be getting from a wellness strategy.
“How do we know wellness is doing anything?” Leaders want to know how they will track and evaluate the progress of their wellness initiatives.
“Do we have the right tools, resources, policies, and environment to help employees get healthier?” Leaders want to know whether the organization they oversee has the right culture and programs for promoting health and well-being.
How to get leadership to support your wellness strategy
1. Listen to and incorporate leadership’s feedback.
When developing a wellness strategy, it would be ideal to get ideas from all levels of an organization, in ways such as anonymous surveys or focus groups. It would be wise to do the same among an organization’s leaders – and to anticipate the questions they would likely have. Approach leadership with a wellness strategy that accounts for:
A value on investment, e.g., savings on healthcare costs, improved productivity, better employee retention
Tracking and evaluating progress, e.g., healthcare cost trends, absenteeism metrics, employee self-report surveys
Wellness programs that are right for a specific workforce population, and a workplace culture that reinforces and supports employee health
2. Make sure leadership promotes wellness.
Leaders should show their support with wellness messaging in town halls, annual and quarterly reports, and meetings with management. If wellness is to be taken seriously, it should be part of the picture when leaders discuss the state of their organization in major updates. Those updates could take on the form of employee survey results and data culled from healthcare cost trends, employer-sponsored program utilization, and measurements of productivity. This is yet another reason why every organization should attempt to keep track of their wellness programs and their impact on the organization.
3. Have leadership participate in wellness.
In addition to promotion, leaders can endorse wellness programs by talking about their own experiences. Many companies offer testimonials to prove that their products and services work; an organization can operate by the same principle by internally promoting their wellness programs to employees. For example, organizations can provide leader testimonials and post them in employee communications such as intranet sites.
More informal approaches also work. Leaders can talk about current or upcoming wellness activities such as step challenges, a 5K event, or health fair when meeting with managers in different levels of the company. By treating wellness goals like any other type of organizational or business goal, leaders can influence managers to take notice and trickle down that messaging to their own teams and direct reports.
Leaders can really differentiate their wellness program from the rest of the pack. Do you feel your organization’s leadership is doing enough to support wellness? For more about wellness strategies, check out HumanaWellness.com for ideas.