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When Wellness Leaders Rise From the Mire

A health promotion consultancy offers thoughts to consider when assessing whether your wellness leader is a dinosaur headed for the tar pit.

October 15, 2013
Related Topics: Benefits Design and Communication, Health Care Benefits, The Latest

With the dramatic changes in wellness initiatives during the past two decades, it should come as little surprise that some of the industry’s early thought leaders and vendors who once flourished have vanished — sucked into the evolutionary vacuum through mergers, flawed business models or just plain poor execution.

But there are survivors. And, according to Health Enhancement Systems, several common traits separate the obsolete from the up-to-date. The Midland, Michigan-based health promotion consultancy offers thoughts to consider when assessing whether your wellness leader is a dinosaur headed for the tar pit. Here are 10.Wellness mire

  1. Own the promotion function. Successful organizations know motivating people to take action is the biggest challenge, so marketing and promotion is a top priority. They don’t ignore evaluation, return on investment or support, but push constant marketing and promotion to drive participation.
  2. Keep the wellness function flat. Long reporting lines and hierarchical management limit productivity. Wellness leaders hire top talent, then operate without convening multiple committees or seeking permission at every level.
  3. Get out of the office. Top managers have a deep connection with the people they serve. They know what people care about because they ask — regularly.
  4. Use data cautiously. Risk, claim and cost data aren’t overemphasized because top managers know day-to-day lifestyle choices aren’t driven by spreadsheet statistics.
  5. Hire, train and reward passionate wellness professionals. The best managers recognize health promotion is a people business that requires a passion for helping others improve their health without regard to an advanced degree, flawless résumé or lofty GPA.
  6. Respect participants. Even when participants don’t take advantage of resources that could improve their health and quality of life, they don’t get cynical or throw in the towel. They understand participants have competing priorities and are at different stages of readiness.
  7. Seek a sense of community. Despite the pressures to do more with less, they excel at getting people involved in group activities, celebrating individual and group success and nurturing a sense of belonging to something that not only enhances personal health but contributes to a stronger organization.
  8. Don’t be limited by convention. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is a good enough reason for the best wellness managers to do something different. They are constantly tinkering with promotion strategies and education techniques that will produce a better result.
  9. Celebrate uncommon success. Not only are the 10k runners recognized, but also so is the first-time participant who won the low-fat baking contest. No movement toward better health is too trivia.
  10. True to the cause. Top health promoters volunteer for community health projects, appear on conference agendas, write articles for trade publications and advocate legislation to improve health. They commit to not only helping individuals, but also supporting wellness, health education and preventive health care.

Rick Bell is Workforce's managing editor. Comment below or email Follow Bell on Twitter at @RickBell123.

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