How to make the most of your Wellness Champions May 2nd, 2014, by Ken Buckley

Wellness Champions can do wonders for your workplace health program, increasing participation, engagement and ultimately your return on investment.

However many organisations fail to capitalise on this powerful resource — they may have Champions but either don’t support them properly or don’t unleash their potential.

Wellness Champions are ordinary employees who play a vital role in making your program work. They might be called Health Ambassadors, or Wellness Project Leaders, or Peer Leaders, the term can vary. They’re not usually paid to do this role; it’s usually pitched as an extra developmental opportunity for employees who want to make a difference or strengthen their leadership skills.

Their purpose is to act as an “energiser” for your wellness program — a lightning rod; a fire lighter. They motivate and encourage other employees to take part; they lead by example; and they’re the front-line for any questions, concerns or feedback about your program.

So how can you make this purpose a reality? Here are our best practice top tips for a successful Wellness Champion scheme:

Find the right people 

A Wellness Champion doesn’t need to be your resident marathon runner or Michelle Bridges look-alike. Some of the most effective champions are people who are still in the middle of their own health journey — someone that other employees can relate to, and not feel intimidated by.

The best Champions are those who are passionate about health and have great people skills.

If you have a large organisation, you may want to consider an application process, where people can volunteer for this role.

You’ll need to clearly outline what’s involved on a weekly basis, and the kinds of skill-sets you’re looking for.

Also be clear on the benefits of volunteering to be a Wellness Champion — the heightened profile in the organisation, the opportunity to demonstrate leadership capacity and other career development factors.

Resource them

Don’t send your eager Wellness Champions up the creek without a paddle. Make sure you give them all the tools and resources they need to do their job. Your Champions’ enthusiasm is vital for the success of your program — once they lose heart, this will be conveyed to other employees.

Take time to develop toolkits for your Champions, along with regular, reliable information updates.

Include FAQs about your program, along with briefing sheets with the key messages you’d like them to communicate to their peers.

Let them be the first to know about upcoming activities and dates.

Help them communicate with other champions, either via online linkups if they’re spread out across various offices, or face-to-face get together. If you have a tool such as Sharepoint, help them create their own team site or Yammer network.

Listen to them

Open the lines of communication back to you, your Wellness Committee or the relevant Senior Managers. Make it easy and comfortable for them to communicate back to you with problems, ideas or other feedback. They are your eyes and ears on the ground — use them.

Thank them

It can be difficult for Wellness Champions to find time to do their wellness work on top of their already challenging real job.

Make sure you thank them genuinely, personally and often. Make it personal. If appropriate, encourage the CEO or Senior Manager to personally take the time to thank them also. It’s free, but highly effective. Remember, your Champions’ attitude towards your wellness program will directly influence the attitudes of their peer employees.

For more advice on establishing wellness champions, a wellness committee or other aspects of a best-practice workplace health and wellness program, ask to speak to our Wellness Consultants at ask@healthworks.com.au or 1300 90 10 90.

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