Three pillars of success in creating a wellness culture

Creating a wellness culture isn't a simple task. It requires strategy, planning, enrollment and detailed and consistent execution.


But before you even start down the path of creating a wellness culture in your company, step back for a moment. We've drilled down into the three simple pillars of success in creating a wellness culture.


Pillar 1. Listen and Receive Feedback from your employees and leadership.


Getting feedback from your employees and leadership team allows you to offer programming that is going to make the biggest impact. When you’re first starting out or looking to expand your current program, it’s important to know where to focus your resources.


Building a culture of wellness is a lot like building a new house.


Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re building a brand new house. You’ve worked with your architect and have a design that you are super excited about. You can see the day where you are moving in and making your new house your home.


Now let’s say you’re going to be the general contractor on the house to save yourself some money. And hey, it might be kind of fun!


You’ve talked to all of your sub-contractors, gotten bids and signed agreements. But you don’t get feedback from them on where they want to be slotted in the process or what works with their schedules.


Now you’re ready to get started! You tell them that they need to show up on the next Monday or else they don’t get the job. Every single one of them. The foundation contractor, the framers, the electrical contractors, the plumbers, the drywallers, the flooring people, the roofers and everyone else.


They all show up with their crews thinking they’ll be ready to get their stuff done. But the foundation isn’t even in!


You’re going to be wasting a TON of money, have lots of confusion and chance are good you won’t get any of the contractors to come back for a second day.


So what subcontractor WOULD you have come on the first day of construction?

The foundation people! They’re going to mark off the property and bring in some heavy machinery to dig your foundation.


OK, OK, I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s a good illustration of how some companies build wellness programs. Employees tend to get overwhelmed and confused when a lot gets thrown at them right away. And they typically see it as their employer overstepping their boundaries and violating their privacy.


The first step in creating a culture of wellness at your company is to get feedback from your employees and leadership. Involving them in the conversation from the beginning and allowing them to be a part of the process is key to driving enrollment and engagement.

Now, I’ll tell you that just simply asking people what they want out of a wellness program probably isn’t going to give you the best results. Honestly, most people don’t know what they want or need when it comes to taking care of their health and wellness.


Here’s an example…


Let’s say your employee Shannon gets some news from her doctor that she needs to lose some weight to reduce her blood pressure. Her doctor suggests working out and eating better. So she goes to sign up for a membership at the local YMCA. She walks in on her first day and is excited to get going. She really wants to lose the weight!


She walks into the gym and looks at all of the equipment and all the people around her that seem to know what they’re doing. She plays around with some of the equipment for a while, but is super self-conscious. When she gets home, she Googles “healthy foods” and starts to find some recipes.


After doing this for a few weeks, the scale doesn’t change. She gets discouraged and starts to let her old habits slip back in. Pretty soon, she’s paying for a gym membership that she doesn’t use and hasn’t really changed her eating habits.


If you had asked Shannon what she wanted out of a wellness program, you probably would have learned that she wanted a weight loss program and a nutrition program. Great. That’s a start!


But why does Shannon want to lose weight? Why does she want to learn to eat better? What’s underneath that? What can she do when that happens that she can’t do today? We get to dig a little deeper to understand the “why.”


And we can do that with an entire employee base to understand the most common challenges your employees are having and why it’s important to them to solve those challenges. We do this by looking at things like:


· Qualitative employee surveys

· Aggregated health insurance claim data

· Workplace observation

· Company strategic goals and leadership input


Then, programs and culture shifts can be designed around that feedback.


We also suggest putting together a wellness committee that is comprised of a cross-section of employees in the company. They get to be the biggest advocates and champions of wellness. Look for people who have a positive attitude, realize the importance of wellness and are outward focused. They don’t need to be the fittest people in the company!


So, feedback and input comes in a variety of ways. Before you start putting together a program, it’s important to listen to all forms of feedback in order to build a successful wellness culture and maximize the return on the company’s investment.


2. Keep it simple

Ultimately a wellness culture is set up to encourage healthy behaviors and make modifications to unhealthy behaviors. Think about an unhealthy behavior that maybe you currently have or one that you’ve had in the past. How hard was it or is it to modify that behavior?


I’ll give you an example from my personal life.


I love to try new beers, wine and whiskey. Going to the store and browsing the aisles for something new to try is really fun for me. When we get together with friends and family, I like to enjoy a few drinks! Or after the kids go to bed and I need to wind down, I’ll pour myself a glass of wine (or two or three). Or if I’m cooking dinner, I’ll pour myself a beer or glass of wine. It goes hand in hand, doesn’t it?


Now, I never would have considered myself to suffer from alcoholism, but a few weeks ago I started to seriously look at how many drinks I was having in a week. It was pretty consistently 3 drinks a day – that’s 21 drinks a week! I wasn’t functioning at my best in my job OR with my family. Plus, I my workouts were suffering and I didn’t feel the greatest when I got up in the morning.


I knew I needed to make a change.


As of today, I haven’t had a drink for over 4 weeks. I feel so much better!


I kept my plan really simple.


First – I didn’t beat myself up for getting to the spot that I was in. I gave myself grace and realized I could do better. Past results don’t determine the future.


Second – I take it a day at a time. Some days I have urges to grab a drink, but my willpower is stronger. Plus, I made a commitment to my family.


Third – I’ve learned to replace my unhealthy behaviors with something else. When I have an urge to have a beer, I’ve found that having a sparkling water is a good substitute and a much better alternative for me.


I haven’t ruled out having a glass of wine or a beer in the future, but my commitment is to do it responsibly. And for me, that’s no more than 2-3 drinks per week. That’s a far cry from where I was and a much healthier relationship with alcohol for my body and my mind.


Now others need more support than I do to overcome this. That’s why Alcoholics Anonymous and numerous other programs exist. But if you study the way that those programs work, they keep it simple and they keep the participants accountable.


Wellness programs that are overly complicated and that require employees to do a lot of work rarely are successful. Complicated point systems, excessive logging and paperwork or a bunch of required steps are most likely going to tank participation.


Creating a culture in your company that makes it natural, easy and fun for your employees to be engaged will yield the greatest results. Remember, the goal is to support your employees in being successful!


3. Keep your employees accountable

Keeping employees accountable for their wellness is probably the BIGGEST factor when it comes to the long-term success of employee wellness.


Our team has decades of experience in accountability coaching. We have seen just about everything when it comes to what works and what doesn’t to keep employees motivated and accountable.


When we’re working with our clients, we guide them on setting stretchy, yet achievable, goals. And we hold them to their commitments!


Let’s say you have an employee that is tasked with a big project. This employee starts out strong on the project, but starts to run into hurdles that make the project increasingly difficult. You may check in every once in a while to see how things are going…but you always get the same answer, “It’s going well. Almost there.”


When it comes to the due date, the employee is scrambling to put together the final product and it’s not done very well. It didn’t really meet your expectations and it feels like a big waste of time. Now weeks of work have been wasted and the company is behind.


In this situation would you just brush the less-than-satisfactory performance to the side or would you hold that employee accountable? My guess is that you would hold them accountable!


It’s no different in wellness. Keeping employees accountable is a tremendous service to them. I’ve been in the fitness business for years and I have always maintained that our biggest competition is the couch! When you have someone that’s checking in, coaching and holding employees accountable to meet their goals, the rate of success for your employees and your company increases substantially!


Right now you might provide your employees some kind of reimbursement for a gym or fitness classes. They can submit their expenses for reimbursement as long as they have attended x number of times. But what happens if they don’t go x number of times? Or maybe they went to the gym, but just hung at the pool instead of doing any physical activity?


That’s where setting stretchy, yet achievable goals and having a certified coach to keep them accountable is important for the success of your employees and your company.

And just think…if they can start to achieve their wellness goals…what’s possible in their work? Maybe they start to set new professional goals that contribute to the growth of the company!


This can be time intensive and requires someone with experience in the coaching space. But I cannot stress how important this is to the long-term success of your wellness culture! Implementing a mix of accountability buddies, group coaching and one-on-one coaching will increase the success of your employees and the return on your investment.


When you build a wellness culture based on these three pillars, you will set your employees and your company up for success.

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