While many employers have drawn a clear path of engaging employees in building and maintaining their health and well-being, others find it challenging to motivate their workforce. In fact, research shows that only one-third of employees recognize their employer’s efforts and credit their employer to lead healthier lifestyles.
According to the 2015/2016 Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey, while employees ranked leadership support as one of the top ingredients for a healthy workplace culture, just more than half (51 percent) say their senior leaders are visible champions of the organization’s health and well-being strategy.
The 2016 Consumer Health Mindset Report reveals that while employees perceive that the health and wellness support they receive through their employers has improved over the last three years — there is still room to grow.
Nearly half (44 percent) of employees believe their employer is extremely or very supportive in getting and keeping them healthy, and more than one-third (37 percent) feel the same about their direct manager or department head. Yet a key missing ingredient for a successful wellness program is top-level leadership support.
What I've seen over the years is visible support from a company’s leaders, from multiple levels within an organization, sets the tone for employees — communicating that it’s acceptable to fit in a workout during the workday, participate in a weight loss challenge with co-workers or take advantage of healthy food options.
Here’s some ways leaders can activate well-being in their organization and quash the perception that working out during the workday is perceived as "wasted time."
Take action and share information We’re all familiar with the terms “action, not words” and “show, don’t tell,” and both can be applied to implementing a successful wellness program. Employees often listen to the words, but trust the behavior exhibited by leaders, such as when the CEO and members of the senior leadership team along with mid-level managers all are standing in line for a health screening. Ensure leaders at all levels across your organization are signed up for all wellness program activities and are sharing information with their employees.
Be accessible A key element of successful employee corporate wellness programs is leadership that can be called upon for support — whether it’s taking the first official step in a new walking program or approving strategic program decisions.
For example, leaders at one large national health plan lead weekly walks with employees to support Walk This Way®, a program that encourages employees to walk up to 10,000 daily steps. Throughout the 12-week program, our staff featured a different “boss” each week — from multiple levels within the organization. Participants track their total steps daily and those that “beat the boss” for the week are entered into a raffle to win a prize — and bragging rights.
Be visible to employees Leadership that can commit financial and other resources needed for wellness program success is critical. But it’s not enough. The leadership involvement must also be visible to employees.
For example, one employer with a corporate fitness center, helped initiate a focus group to determine key wellness program drivers. Focus group participants shared that a key barrier to participation was an underlying perception that, “If I’m seen working out, I will be seen as a slacker and not working.” On-site staff helped change that perception by recruiting leaders to work out while on the clock, opening the door for employees to recognize that fitness was a priority all throughout the company.
Enlist other leaders within the organization Ensure that leaders throughout the company are seen as active faces of the wellness program. Senior leaders in particular can play a key role in demonstrating support to mid-level managers who in turn can ensure this support is communicated to employees throughout the organization.
Knowing time and resources are at a premium, I encourage you to consider enlisting “health champions” within your organization that represent leaders from all the divisions and worksites where your company has a presence. This helps ensure that employees are understanding the importance of a wellness program, from multiple sources, and multiple touchpoints.
For example, at one technology company, a three-phased approach is used that includes identifying and developing relationships with influencers at all levels of the company — from administrative assistants to leaders — and then communicating consistently with them throughout the year.