Employers across the nation are starting to place more effort and funds into employee wellness programs.  They are evaluating countless platforms ranging from nutritious lunch options, mental health programs, and fitness offerings, to determine what selection will warrant the most return on investment.  

A key step to ensure this return is placing the right person in the leadership role to spearhead whichever program is selected. This person needs to be the Captain of the company’s Wellness Ship, better known as the wellness director.

This Captain needs to be able to lead the crew into the port even amongst choppy water (low engagement, low productivity levels, employee health issues), and to do so they need to do the following:

Be open to suggestions.

As humans, we always want to be heard.  As employees, the want turns into a need when it comes to discussing which wellness platform they will actually participate in to strive towards a healthier lifestyle.  One easy and effective way to hear from employees candidly and anonymously is to administer surveys.  

Employees are more likely to give an honest answer when their name is not associated with their responses.  The wellness director needs to be able to accurately read this data and create a wellness platform that will address any problem areas identified.  This way, true engagement levels can be determined as data doesn’t lie.

Lastly, the power of in-person interaction should not be ignored.  Face-to-face conversations allow for real-time responses, and presents the wellness director in an authentic and caring way.


Monkey see, monkey do.

As the Captain of U.S.S. Wellness, the director needs to get their hands dirty and help their team raise the mast.  That means that if they’ve arranged a walking challenge, the director needs to be leading the pack wearing their best smile and encouraging their crew to walk the plank (couldn’t resist the pun).  

After all, one can’t expect their employees to engage in the program if they aren’t willing to themselves.  This also gives the director the chance to interact with employees on a different level and join them on their journey to a healthy life.  


Keep up with trends.

Today’s corporate wellness industry is overflowing with various benefits programs, so which one would be the most effective for your demographic?  Well, if the wellness director is not aware that a particular program exists, they probably won’t be providing it to their employees.  That’s why it’s important for wellness directors to attend local and national wellness conferences like WELCOA and SHRM to remain educated on the latest and greatest employee benefit options.  

In exploring different platforms, it’s important to ask “what program will my employees engage and enjoy the most?” and “does this platform fit nicely within our company’s culture and budget?” Don’t settle for a platform if any of the above are answered with a ‘no’.


Be aware of your audience.

As a wellness director, it’s important to take a look at the demographics that make up your team.  Is your population older? Younger? Do they have heart problems? Are they smokers?  Staying in touch with whom you are creating a wellness program for should always be top of mind.  

A platform that might be aimed towards older populations might not speak to the younger crowd.  If you have a mixture, make sure the program resonates with all ages. Employee consensus will help with this, but the director also needs to have a grasp on the company’s culture as a whole and use that dynamic to their advantage.  

Do employees usually respond better to technologically driven platforms? Do they prefer pen to paper?  All of these factors need to be considered in order to properly set up employees for success. Screenings can help identify health issues, but it’s the tools that the wellness director provides to those who are in need of a change that makes the most difference.


Have the ear of the c-suite.

Wellness directors, in some cases, are not the ultimate decision makers.  For that reason, it’s essential to be able to support the programs with evidence that they want to implement.  Directors can have the perfect wellness program in mind, but if it’s not presented properly to the C-suite, it might never come to fruition.  

Use your data, survey results, anecdotes, and projected goals to tell the story of wellness historically and illustrate where the company can strive towards a healthier lifestyle (in particular, HOW they can grow to be more healthy). It is the director’s job as the expert to compile the most effective platform for their employees, show hard data and parameters, and tell C-suite how the money invested will be returned ten-fold.

As the Captain of the Wellness Ship, the wellness director has to wear many hats: the voice of the people, the top participant, the wellness guru, the prescriber, and the presenter.  Many of these hats need to be worn on a daily basis to ensure a successful wellness program and to move the employee population towards a healthy lifestyle.  Without a strong Captain, programs can fall apart at the seams. It’s time to sink or swim!

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