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A corporate health and wellness program can be a wonderful boost for your employee morale and engagement – or it can flatten it.

Morale and engagement is actually the number one objective of most US and Canadian corporate health programs, according to Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies by Buck Consultants [see Highlights and Implications here].

In Australia and New Zealand, morale is relegated to fourth place. (1st place goes to Safety).

So how can we use our health and wellness programs to boost employee morale and engagement – not just in the program, but overall engagement in the direction and values of the organisation?

Consider two scenarios:

1.  A team leader talks enthusiastically about the upcoming health campaign, about how a similar program helped him lose weight last year, about how much fun their team had doing it.

2.  Employees receive a mass email from the HR Department announcing a compulsory health program which would take 4-7 weeks, require attendance at a webinar and require daily admin tasks.

Which is going to create more engagement? Which will make employees prouder to work for their organisation?

Employee morale rises and falls on two factors – why: why you’re introducing a new program/system/direction and why employees should change; and the how: how you market it and deliver it.

The “why”

A focus on health risks, the cost of poor health or absenteeism is fine for convincing Executive of the need for your program, but it’s not going to win the hearts and minds of your employees. Rather, it will make them feel like liabilities and inconveniences to your business, rather than the assets they truly are.

Two of the most effective “why” messages for health and wellness programs are:

A. WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)  – “because you will benefit personally from taking part”

The most powerful incentive is intrinsic motivation. Show employees your program will give them something they really want, show them how it will improve their life, how it will give them more energy, better sleep, a fitter physique.

B. Because we  care“your organisation genuinely cares about your wellbeing”

The “because we care” line is best used as a secondary message. The core reason needs to be all about them, not you the employer. But it doesn’t hurt to drum home the fact that your organisation looks after your employees in lots of ways, and that your wellness program helps to make you a great place to work.

The “how”

If you want your employees to submissively comply with your latest edict on your compulsory health program, then send a formal, terse mass email.

If you want your employees to embrace your health and wellness program with energy, enthusiasm and team spirit, and be filled with good feelings about working for you, then pack your communication and marketing full of energy, enthusiasm, team spirit and good feelings.

Equip your managers and team leaders with info, tools and ideas to convey enthusiasm about the program.

This is where your enthusiastic Champions and Coordinators come into their own. They can keep the vibe active, vibrant and can-do. They can work with your team leaders to foster a great team spirit and a bit of light-hearted team competitiveness around your activities and challenges.

To engage employees, you need to reach and touch their hearts and minds, on issues they truly care about. Things that improve their lives and make them want to “stay and strive”. Corporate health and wellness programs are one of the rare things that let you do that. Make the most of this opportunity, and use your health and wellness program to create a new energy, sense of purpose and increased morale across your entire organisation.


Author Healthworks

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