2. Creating Cohesive Wellness TeamsBenchmark #2: Creating a Cohesive Wellness Team
Team...Together Everyone Achieves More
You may have the most dynamic Wellness Coordinator on earth — a paragon of fitness and health, a great organizer and inspiring leader. But your goals are ambitious. You want to actually change people's lives, and transform your company into a healthier place to work — meanwhile showing the top brass that wellness efforts can improve the bottom line.
How hard can it be? Think a minute. You know you should eat healthier and exercise more, right? But do you always? It's tough to make those changes. It's even harder to change the culture of a business whose main purpose seems to be unrelated to health. In fact, some people will think that health initiatives will hurt productivity. They imagine cubicles filled with relaxed employees taking naps instead of working.
The Lone Ranger approach may seem easier, but it just won't work as well as creating a team. Believe it or not, you need people who are less healthy, more critical about costs, and who think differently than you to help you achieve your goals. Your company needs a wellness team!
What You'll Learn In This Online Monograph
- The benefits of a cohesive wellness team
- How to assemble an effective team
- Who you want on your team
- What the team does
- Tips for keeping your team on track
ASSEMBLING THE WELLNESS TEAM
Appointments or Volunteers? It's been debated whether team members should be appointed from the top down, or be volunteers who stand up to be counted. Each has its benefits.
Top-Down Appointments. When the CEO has charged certain people with the job of promoting wellness, it's a powerful statement that the program is a priority. It's likely that those chosen will want to report a mission accomplished. The team can spend its time on results instead of struggling for support from management. But it's important that members have some genuine interest in health.
Volunteer Members. It's impressive when busy people volunteer to help their coworkers get healthier. And you may find some great talents — a worker who used to teach aerobics, another who quit smoking after the eighth try, someone who has had heart surgery and has learned all about heart-healthy lifestyles. There's a nice feel to volunteer groups, but be sure they include people from different levels and departments — and that they know they'll be accountable for results.
How Should the Group be Lead? Effective teams have solid leadership. The team leader should be someone who understands the company's strategic direction, and the wellness teams' vision of a corporate culture, which better supports everyone's health. In addition, the team leader should be someone who can integrate these two missions and talk about them persuasively to everyone from the newest employee to the CEO.
The leader should have a healthy lifestyle, be a good motivator and mentor, be able to work with a diverse group of people and acknowledge and support other's efforts. He or she must be able to handle disputes calmly and reasonably; and, a good leader isn't too shaken by setbacks, uncertainty, or confusion.
How Big Should the Group Be? 8-15 members is small enough to allow meaningful participation by each person, but large enough to include enough "heads" to generate lots of ideas and provide a variety of skills.
How Often Should the Team Meet? Teams will have "peak seasons" when they meet more often to gather data or plan major events. Thus scheduling will need to be flexible, but all teams should meet at least once each quarter.
THE BENEFITS OF A COHESIVE WELLNESS TEAM
Teams Add Credibility and Importance To Your Wellness Programs. When you're working alone, you may be viewed as "the health nut," or worse yet, "the health Nazi." A group which includes formal and informal leaders from all segments of the business is going to earn the respect of the corporate community and have a far greater "reach" than you can alone.
The Group IQ. If you've ever been on an effective team — from the high school band to a good marriage to the friend you walk with at lunch — you know how much power there is in a united team. Together you can think of great ideas, deal with setbacks, and dream up solutions.
If you've ever been in a dysfunctional team, you realize how unproductive they can be. Perhaps the most important thing to do is to intervene if there are bad dynamics in your wellness team. Approach the problem carefully and identify working solutions that keep the best interest of the group in mind.
Public Relations. Group members give the wellness team its human face — literally, in company photographs, newsletters, and events. Members can hand out items such as informational brochures on health topics or coordinate team sports events. In addition, they can conduct surveys and solicit ideas from fellow employees.
Teams Provide Stability. If your company's head Health Ranger leaves, you won't have to start from scratch. You'll have experienced team members who can rise to leadership positions. If your business is downsized, the wellness team is less likely to be eliminated than a sole coordinator.
Teams Lighten the Load and take advantage of individual talents. Even if you have a full-time person dedicated to your wellness program, it's a lot of work. A team can help prevent burnout. It also allows delegation of tasks to those who are best at each sort of job. Salespeople can work on incentives and motivation, benefits managers can inform you about health costs, etc.
WHO SHOULD BE ON THE TEAM?
You want employees from all sectors of the company who can envision how wellness (or the lack of it) affects different aspects of the business. You need people who can think strategically, make realistic plans and anticipate pitfalls — people who know where to look for support and where to anticipate resistance.
You also want a diverse group in terms of health. A smoker can give you realistic feedback on your smoking cessation program. Someone who's overweight and doesn't exercise can "tell it like it is" and help your team understand why some well-meaning plans may not work. And if that person supports your programs, it may inspire others.
Potential wellness team members:
- senior and mid-level managers
- front-line employees
- benefits managers
- union representatives
- human resources personnel
- marketing and communications directors
- safety coordinators
- information systems representatives
- health care representatives
WHAT DOES THE WELLNESS TEAM DO?
The Wellness Team...
Develops, guides and oversees the company's wellness efforts. Make no mistake — this is hard work. It's no small order to find ways to help employees — people with health problems, family stress, financial worries, and lots of work to do — make changes toward greater health. You have to discover their interests, motivate them to participate in your programs, and keep management enthused about your efforts.
Establishes a vision which drives the team. Great teams know where they're going; they can picture their desired outcome.
First identify the current wellness status of the employees by gathering data. How's absenteeism? What is the health insurance claims history? What are employees interested in? What has worked in the past? If possible gather data from similar companies. That way you can discover if your figures are out of line.
Now it's time to dream a little. Imagine your workplace transformed into a truly healthy environment. This allows you to begin developing a vision for your wellness program.
Decides on Goals. The team is now ready to choose some desired outcomes based on the data the team has gathered. We suggest you move towards ultimate goals in small, achievable steps. Perhaps you want to contain health care costs, decrease absenteeism, improve the level of seat belt use, teach basic nutrition concepts, and get more employees walking regularly. If high turnover is a problem, you may want to use your wellness program to attract and retain employees by offering programs or benefits to their families. However, the goals you choose should be specific to the population at hand, and they should be measurable in terms of outcomes.
Attaches a timeline to each goal. The project may be forgotten if the timeline is too long, or you may create stress and resentment if the timeline is too short. Ask team members for feedback when setting timelines, and check with them to see how projects are doing.
TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR TEAM ON TRACK.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Get across the idea to everyone that this team pulls in health-related data and puts out helpful, human responses. You don't just meet — you gather ideas, brainstorm, plan, implement, and analyze results. Let management know what you're up to by circulating the minutes of meetings, and use memos or E-mail to clue in employees. And just plain talk about what you're doing!
Get a Fast Start. Build momentum and morale by going into action mode right away. Have each member conduct five personal interviews with employees about their health interests and needs, or distribute and collect a company-wide questionnaire. Analyze the results quickly and move on to program planning.
Widen the Circle. Turnover can create gaping holes in your team. Periodically identify "new blood" who could become members. Invite them to meetings or to help out on health promotion events. Allow members who contribute less to be replaced.
Roles and Responsibilities Should be Clear. Everyone should leave meetings with a clear idea of what's expected of them — and when. It's a good idea for the leader to summarize tasks assigned at the end of each meeting.
Remember That the Business of Business is Business. You won't get anywhere pushing ideas that cut into productivity. You and top management have to be on the same side, or you'll lose the support you need to get more wellness into the corporate culture. Be realistic — not too many companies will sponsor naps, but a three-minute stretch break may float. Your team is trying to enhance work life, not replace it with health activities.
It's really not such a stretch to align the interests of management with those of the employees. The truth is, good health is in everyone's interest.
Successful, results-oriented wellness programs almost always use a team approach. There's just too much important work to be done for one person — and too many talents and skills in the organization to pass by. The composition of the team is paramount — it must be diverse and enthusiastic. It should be led by someone who truly cares about health — and who has the people skills to manage the group.
The team must develop a vision which grows out of the reality of the current collective health status of the company. Measurable goals, which are achievable in a reasonable time frame, should also be set. In addition, they should communicate well with the top management who nurture them with resources, and with the employees whom they hope to nurture with health-promoting information,
activities, and corporate culture.
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