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How to show leadership support for your corporate health & wellness program

By 21/09/2012November 21st, 2018No Comments

So, you’ve found the perfect health and wellness program. It’s geared to create real behaviour and culture change, it’s proven to work and it’s easy to use. But how do you make sure it rolls out smoothly in your organisation, with all your unique barriers and problems and quirks?

How do you get people to actually take part?

Apart from sending a strongarm squad to each and every employee and forcing them into it (not advised, by the way!), how can you create genuine engagement levels and high, sustained participation levels?

Ironically, the first place to start is not with your employees, but with your executives. Yes, we’re talking about that tried and true strategy of top-down support.

Today we look at the all the first part of “prepare”: gaining and demonstrating leadership support.

Studies of international best practice in corporate health has shown that leadership support is essential for the success of a health and wellness program.

And not just any support, it has to be genuine, visible and active support.

Here’s a scale of good to best support:

  • Good: Photo and letter of support
  • Better: Talks about the program
  • Best: Engages in the program

Employees aren’t silly, they can tell when they see a formal CEO message that’s been hurriedly dashed off by an HR or Comms Coordinator on their behalf. They can tell the difference between that and a CEO who’s seen taking part in a group exercise activity, or talking about the changes he or she has made to her eating patterns.

Here’s some best practice examples and ideas.

1. Talks about the program

The CEO and other senior managers mention the program in a wide range of channels and forums – in their regular monthly update,  or regular columns in the newsletter or intranet,  in  meetings, in cascade briefings to line managers.

You’ll find this is even more effective if the message is about the benefits of the program. Less corporate messaging about “this shows our company cares and we’re a great place to work”, and more about the results you’ll get from taking part: “you’ll feel great”.

And, to be truly effective, these messages need to be maintained throughout the duration of the program, not just for the launch. For example, the CEO can mention success stories along the way:  “A big shout out to the Finance Team who’ve collectively walked a million steps this month”, or “A special congratulations to Paul whose lost 20kg so far this year, and says he feels like a new man!”

2. Engages in the program

Senior management need to walk the talk. This has a double whammy effect: it not only indicates personal support, but it sends a message that it’s OK to take part.

In some organisations, some employees can be nervous about being seen to take time off at lunchtime to participate in a group activity, or stopping work to attend a seminar, for example. If their manager is “too busy” to take part, or worse, organising meetings at the same time as the activity, they won’t feel right in taking part themselves.

Encourage your leadership team to actively take part, and then talk about what they’ve done, both formally and informally.

For example, the Executive team could undertake a challenge together, then post their results in the intranet or newsletter. Or you could keep a running tally of weight lost, or steps taken, or vegetables consumed, and so on.

Another really effective tool is an internal blog, where a senior manager blogs about the steps they’ve taken to improve their health, and the impact it’s had on their wellbeing. This could be a blog by the CEO, or even another senior manager who isn’t renowned for being healthy.

Healthworks  Australia is a leader in workplace health, wellness and safety. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you improve employee health, boost productivity and reduce health-related costs.


Author Healthworks

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