The story behind WellSteps August 21st, 2013, by Ken Buckley

20 months of work at Healthworks, 40 years of work by US founders, a backpacker and a baby… Here’s the story behind WellSteps in Australia.

If you Google “WellSteps”, you’ll see a lot of references to a US company of the same name. Who are these people, and what’s their connection to Healthworks?

I could tell you that Healthworks owns the exclusive licence to WellSteps in Australasia. Or I could tell you that WellSteps are our US partners, but none of those explanations truly reflect our relationship. Let me explain.

I first came across WellSteps a few years ago, through email updates from the American Journal of Health Promotion.

I liked what I saw in WellSteps. I liked the way it was targeted at behaviour change and habits; it wasn’t just a collection of ad hoc components.

I liked the way it used rewards and incentives as an integral part of the system to motivate employees towards continuous improvement.

I liked the way the Personal Health Assessment (PHA) was easy to do in just 5-10 minutes, and yet provided personalised results and advice.

I liked the way the reporting was instant and 24/7, giving immediate feedback to both employee and employer.

I liked the way the PHA covered  emotional health, relationships and life / job satisfaction as with as physical health.

I liked the scalability  – it was so easy and cost-effective for large clients with multiple sites, as well as small to medium businesses. Our clients could take WellSteps as an all-in-one option, or expand it with our other products and services.

And I really liked the fact that it was evidence-based. It was not only built on a combined 40 years of experience in behaviour change and corporate health, and it not only encompassed the findings of over 100 research studies, but it was also proven to work. Scientific journals have published research which documents the impact of WellSteps on participants’ diet, exercise, blood pressure and overall health.

It was what our clients needed – hard scientific data to build their business case for workplace wellness.

The question was, how could we partner with them? At that stage, Troy and Steve didn’t know me from a bar of soap.

The international connection

It was around that time that I received a call from Michael O’Donnell, editor of the American Journal of Health Promotion, and author of Health Promotion in the Workplace. Michael and I go way back. Michael’s niece was coming to Australia to backpack, and he asked if I could show her around. I gladly agreed, and as we were talking I asked if he knew the Wellsteps guys, Troy and Steven.

It turns out Michael knew them well, and he offered to make an introduction. Within minutes of hanging up the phone, he’d sent an email to Troy and Steven recommending me. A couple of months later and I was on a plane to the US to talk about potential for an alliance between WellSteps and Healthworks.

It didn’t take long for them to agree to a licencing arrangement. Yippee, I thought, we’re set! We’d Australianise it, change the dates, change the measurements to metric, change the z’s to s’s, put an Aussie accent on the videos and Bobs’ your uncle. How wrong I was!


We wanted to make absolutely sure that our clients experienced WellSteps as an Australian product.  It had to sit on an Australian website, and talk to both coordinators and participations in fluent Australian about Australian health issues. It turns out this took over a year of intensive but rewarding work.

We were extremely fortunate to have Emily Thomas join us at this time. In another coincidence, Emily came to us from Salt Lake City, the same home town as WellSteps; she was the perfect person to be the go-between.

Emily worked tirelessly throughout 2012 and 2013 to ensure every tiny detail of WellSteps was ready for our Aussie clients. All while falling pregnant, moving back to the US and having her baby, without skipping a beat. Emily is still on our team, as our US WellSteps guru!

In the meantime, we’ve welcome Katherine Rothwell to our team. Katherine is responsible for the operational management of WellSteps, ensuring it rolls out perfectly and smoothly for every client.

It has taken us more than a year to get right, but I am absolutely delighted with the final product. It’s 100% tailored to Australian (and New Zealand) needs, it’s scalable, it’s intuitive and it’s so easy to do – both for coordinators and for participants – and it’s super effective.


Want more?

You can see inside WellSteps in the videos below about the WellSteps PHA, and about WellSteps Rewards.

You can also take a free demo of the PHA system – just send in your request and we’ll arrange a login.


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