1. Capturing Senior Level Support

Benchmark #1: Capturing Senior-Level Support

The Need
Have you ever considered hunting a grizzly bear with a slingshot? Sounds kind of absurd doesn't it? Most assuredly, it is. However, there are some health promotion professionals who do it routinely. Time and time again, scores of well-intentioned practitioners set their sites on bagging an apex predator (a.k.a. creatures who reside at the top of the food chain) only to be overwhelmed — not to mention a little embarrassed — when they realize the error of their ways.

This short monograph focuses on the notion of securing senior management support for organizational health promotion initiatives. And to summarize, we are going to target three strategic questions that, if carefully considered, can make the hunt for senior-level support a successful one.

The Big Idea
In this monograph, you'll come away with one big idea...and here it is: "One key reason why some people are successful at getting senior management support is that they carefully and insightfully plan to accomplish it."

In Search of Senior-Level Support
Regardless of whether you are just getting started or you have been leading a program for years — one thing is certain — despite its importance, securing senior level support can be a very difficult feat to accomplish. If you are a practitioner who already has senior level buy-in, consider yourself fortunate. But if you are like most health promotion practitioners, senior level support is a rare commodity. Take heart, though. It can be negotiated — just be prepared for the challenge.

"Why is it that some people are consistently successful at getting senior managers to buy into the idea of corporate wellness and others fail miserably?" There is no easy answer to this question — there are too many factors that come into play. However, one key reason why some people are successful at getting senior level support is that they carefully and insightfully plan to accomplish it.

Planning to obtain senior management support may sound strange, or even unattainable. But, you will find that deliberate consideration to strategic questions will prepare you in advance — in order to approach your senior-level people and be taken seriously.

The Need for Senior Management Support
In his book "The Organization of the Future," management scholar Peter Drucker insightfully relates that, in order to be successful, "major change initiatives must be actively led by senior management." Despite the academic tone, this simple observation has profound implications for health promotion practitioners. After all, if your ultimate goal is to transform your organization's culture by integrating health promoting practices into the day-to-day operations, then securing the support of your senior level executives is going to be essential.

While this is not necessarily earth-shattering news for the seasoned worksite health promotion veteran, it is an important understanding for the practitioner who is just getting their program started. Indeed, support from the corner offices is critical for numerous reasons, not least of which is the simple fact the senior level executives are the people responsible for calling all the shots. To be sure, if you expect to secure the financial resources necessary to deliver effective programming or to have immediate and unobstructed access to the rest of the organization, then you will need your senior level people blazing the trail. Moreover, senior executives can provide additional assistance by helping you to link your health promotion objectives to business outcomes — thus positioning health promotion as an integral part of the organization. Last, but certainly not least, senior executives can significantly increase the likelihood that your initiative will bear fruit by crafting and implementing supportive corporate policy.

Three Questions You Need To Ask...
It seems to us that health promotion professionals could go a long way toward gaining senior management support simply by considering the following three questions. The answers to these three questions, in turn, will provide you with important information essential in convincing senior level people of the importance of taking on a worksite health promotion program.

1. What are the organization's short-term and long-term strategic priorities?
The first question for consideration relates to the organization's strategic priorities. By knowing what needs to be accomplished organizationally, you will be able to better position your health promotion activities so that they fit within the context of the core
business units. One of the most common mistakes made by health promotion professionals is that they fail to take into account the organization's strategic priorities when setting up their programs. As a result, the worksite health promotion initiative is viewed as something extraneous to the "really important" business activities.

In order to avoid being on the outside looking in, health promotion practitioners should dedicate themselves to better understanding the organization's business operations. This includes having a complete working knowledge of the company's vision, mission, financial position, and both the short and long-term strategic priorities. Moreover, a thorough analysis of the organization's history should be considered.

2. What benefits can be expected from your wellness initiative and what's the potential value of health promotion to the organization?
Having gained a better understanding of the business, the challenge now is to conceptualize how the health promotion initiative can impact the organization in a meaningful manner.

Senior-level people are ultimately responsible for making sure that the organization meets its objectives. With this in mind, the health promotion initiative must be seen as a vehicle necessary for increasing the organization's competitive advantage. And, until you can confidently discuss the value of your program and list the tangible benefits that can be expected, you're not ready to approach your senior-level people.

A word of warning is most appropriate here. Many health promotion professionals have made the mistake of over-promising and under-delivering. Phrases such as cost containment, increased productivity, and improved health status, are routinely mentioned in the negotiating process. The unfortunate reality is that these outcomes are oftentimes very difficult to measure.

The good news is that specific health promotion outcomes and improvements can be demonstrated. However, if measurable results are going to be generated, the program must be designed insightfully, funded adequately and executed flawlessly. With this warning in mind, health promotion professionals should look not only to the research, but also to other successful companies, to gain a thorough understanding of what outcomes can reasonably be expected from various health promotion interventions and approaches.

Although there is a lot of compelling anecdotal information in circulation, be sure to use only reputable sources of information. Fortunately, there are a whole host of good publications available. One great place to start is with American Journal of Health Promotion — especially the issues that highlight health outcomes and cost effectiveness.

3. What are the leadership styles, pressures, strengths and weaknesses of your senior level executives?
Having gained a thorough understanding of both the business priorities and the potential value and benefits of worksite wellness, your task is to position this information in a way that it can be embraced by your senior-level people. To do this, you will have to get intimately familiar with their working styles, pressures, and individual strengths and weaknesses.

For example, how do your senior-level people deal with information? If they are known to be sticklers for details and love to see reports and analyses filled with charts and graphs, then you'll need to give it to them. On the other hand, if your senior-level people aren't readers, then you should change your point of perspection if you present them with a "War and Peace” health promotion plan.

When it comes to leadership styles, consider whether your boss likes to make decisions independently or by committee. Moreover, you'll need to think about their personal motivations and aspirations. For example, how might a successful health promotion initiative help them to achieve their own professional agenda.

By having a firm grasp on this type of information, you will be sure to get a fair hearing for your health promotion plan.

The "Three Questions” Checklist
1. What are the organization's short-term and long-term strategic priorities?
2. What benefits can be expected from your wellness initiative and what is the potential value of health promotion to the organization?
3. What are the leadership styles, pressures, strengths and weaknesses of your senior level executives?

Positioned for Success
There you have it. Three strategic questions that, if considered carefully, can help you to successfully engage your senior level managers in supporting a worksite health promotion initiative.

You may be thinking, "there has to be more to it than simply answering three questions!” And you are right — there is a lot more to it.

Answering the three questions mentioned in this publication, simply puts you in a position where you are ready to pitch the business to your senior level people. Without this information, you WILL INDEED be hunting for a grizzly bear with a slingshot. We have heard the horror stories of golden opportunities squandered by failure to adequately prepare for the big moment.

You will have a much better understanding of the business and how health promotion can be leveraged to increase the company's competitive advantage. And, THE BOTTOM LINE IS... by understanding your senior executives working styles, you will know how to successfully get a fair hearing for your wellness initiative.

Bennis, Warren G. and Mische, Michael. The 21st Century Organization, Reinventing Through Re-engineering. Jossey-Bass Inc., 1995.

Chapman, Larry S., Securing Support From Top Management. The Art of Health Promotion, Vol. 1: No. 2, May/June 1997, pp. 1-7.

Gabarro, J. and Kotter, J., Managing Your Boss, Harvard Business Review, May/June 1993.

5. Choosing Appropriate Interventions

Benchmark #5: Choosing Appropriate Interventions

Theory Into Practice
Ideally, by the time you’re choosing interventions, you’ve got your wellness team together, and you’ve collected data on the wellness needs and interests of your population. You have taken the time to envision your goal and identify objectives. You’ve got a budget and plans for evaluating and promoting your program. Your interventions should flow naturally from your data, goals and objectives. You take an objective, like reducing the number of smokers, and research the options in smoking
cessation programs, and choose one you can afford.

But it isn’t always that clear. The choices in subject and delivery methods can be dizzying. Should you touch on many topics, or focus on one or two? Go high-tech or high-touch? How do you choose?

Base your choices on:
1. What risk factors are prevalent in your population?
Health promotion plans are increasingly tailored to reduce the health risk factors that cost the most in medical claims and productivity. If you do HRA’s, your aggregate report should identify prevalent risk factors, and claims analysis from your health care provider can add to your information. Look at group data you collect from screenings, too. And look at your demographics — an employee group including many young women may benefit from prenatal care education, while an aging workforce may need heart health interventions.

2. What does senior management want the wellness program to achieve?
Look at the results of surveys and meetings with management. If their goal is short-term cost savings, you may need to focus on programs like self-care to decrease utilization, and disease management to help expensive high-risk individuals cope more effectively with health conditions.

If they are more concerned about employee retention, corporate culture and image, improving morale, and the long-term health of the employees, you may consider a broader range of programming, including stress management on an individual and cultural level, child care initiatives, fitness activities, wellness team competitions, and much more.

3. What do your employees want?
You’ll want to provide some programming that matches employee interests as indicated in surveys or focus groups you’ve conducted. And you’ll want to promote them aggressively. Visible programs that appeal to many employees establish goodwill and a caring image for your program and organization.

4. How much money and time do you have?
Your resources will determine what interventions you consider. If you have little money, work on bringing community, nonprofit and government resources in to your worksite, and educate workers about what’s available “out there” — from the local YMCA to health information and support groups in cyberspace.

5. What does the latest research indicate?
Keeping up with health promotion research can save you years of ineffective, trial and error programming. Read the American Journal of Health Promotion. Look at the results of the HERO research online at www.the-hero.org. Find out what’s working.

What You’ll Learn In This Online Monograph
  • What data to base your intervention choices on

  • Why you need multiple interventions to change behavior

  • Where to research the effectiveness of various interventions

  • An example of a comprehensive program for stress management

  • Why you should offer a variety of awareness offerings

  • Choosing Interventions to Reduce Stress
    You’ve figured out that stress is a major risk factor in your workplace, and picked stress reduction as a major topic for intervention.

    First, do your homework. Find out what’s being done in workplaces to reduce stress. Read the AJHP review article on stress management interventions in work settings. Talk to other wellness professionals about what’s worked best for them. Look at products available from the government, nonprofit organizations and vendors that may be useful.

    Next, use that information to target stress as comprehensively as possible. Use multiple delivery methods — some are listed below, add any others you can think of! Remember, offering your message in a variety of ways works best to change behavior.

    Printed health information
    Paycheck stuffers and brochures can raise awareness of stress symptoms and solutions.

    Senior management message
    A message from the top that the company is serious about reducing stress legitimizes the program. It’s especially helpful if it sets up a vehicle for two-way communication.

    Group education
    Stress-management classes teaching muscle relaxation and cognitive-behavioral skills are effective.

    Self-study programs
    Stock your wellness library with relaxation books, tapes and workbooks and advertise them to employees.

    Your EAP
    Remind employees that your EAP is available and ready to help with stress issues anytime.

    Computer-based programs
    Screen your favorite health websites for stress information, diagnostic quizzes, and other aids. Provide links on the company Intranet, or hand out the web addresses.

    Personal coaching
    Meet weekly with employees who want help. Give non-threatening stress reduction homework and check in frequently, perhaps by email, providing support and accountability for their efforts to change.

    Support groups
    Employees can share their experiences with stress and the problem solving they’ve done. You can also refer them to online and community support groups.

    Your health care provider
    Employees whose stress symptoms may qualify as anxiety disorders can and should be referred for mental health evaluation.

    Point-of-decision prompts
    Reminders at workstations, lounges, coffee machines, to breathe deeply, take a muscle relaxation break, or to think realistically (“Rome wasn’t built in a day”) can help employees to develop healthier habits. Computers can be set up to flash reminders to workers to stretch every hour.

    Corporate policies
    Policies providing for flex time and assistance with childcare can make a big difference. Setting up a walking path indoors or out encourages taking healthy breaks.

    Worker involvement in the design and evaluation of ongoing stress management programs is preferable to use of outside vendors or consultants.

    Recognition for success
    Corporate recognition for employees and managers who participate in
    programs sends the right message.

    Although this seems antithetical to stress management, you may get the people who need it most if you set up an individual or team competition that involves earning points for stress-reduction activities.

    Incentives for participation
    Incentives can be awarded for participation in individual events or for cumulative participation in a series of offerings.

    Use a similar format to plan any major campaign. Do your research, then plan interventions using every delivery mode available. Be a broken record — but broadcast in different languages so that everyone can
    understand in their own way.

  • They can set the stage for behavior change, helping people to recognize health issues and giving them “permission” to consider taking action.

  • They can increase the visibility of your program, keeping it alive in the public eye.

  • They can bring people together who normally don’t mix. Activities that cut across the usual hierarchy and departmental divisions are healthy for everyone.

  • They’re a great response to employee interest data. You can offer classes on topics that employees requested.

  • You can offer something for everyone. Personal finance, all kinds of recreation, parenting, cooking, weight control, fitness, time management, medical self-care, elder care, nutrition, smoking cessation, home safety, consumer education, assertiveness training, alternative medicine, living wills, prenatal care, mental illness, heart health, stress management — the topics are limited only by your imagination and resources.

  • And the last reason to offer a variety of awareness programs? They’re fun!

  • Behavior Modification and the Matter of Time
    In health promotion, we often invest too little and expect too much. To change stubborn behavior patterns, we need to pick a target health behavior and provide a comprehensive, long-term series of interventions.

    If you’ve ever been in sales, you probably know that people rarely buy on the first approach. They have to hear about the product through a variety of media — an introductory letter, a phone call, an advertisement, then a sales call — before they’ll buy.

    It’s the same in health promotion. You need to give people time to get acquainted with the idea of making changes, and offer a variety of opportunities to jump in and try. The more exposure they have, the more normal it will seem.

    EXAMPLE: In the 1950s the idea of NOT letting people smoke in our homes would have seemed the height of rudeness. Today, it’s he/she who lights up in your home or office who’s out of line. That cultural change took many years to accomplish. Awareness programs, the Surgeon General ordered warnings on cigarette packages, stop smoking programs and workplace smoking policy changes followed. Lawsuits against manufacturers and smoking cessation aids — and through dogged and continuous effort, smoking rates that span the ages have plummeted drastically.

    So — if you decide to seriously target a health behavior, go for it with all the arrows in your quiver — determine the most effective interventions, and plan for a LONG campaign.

    Tips for Choosing Appropriate Interventions
  • Talk to other wellness professionals about their experiences with different types of interventions, good and bad. Ask for advice on how to choose, structure, time, and promote activities.

  • Ask senior managers to participate in activities, be members of wellness teams, and lend their support to your interventions.

  • Build on successful activities by making them annual events, preferably at the same time of year. Improve them, and make them a part of the corporate culture and calendar.

  • Get someone to take photographs whenever appropriate for use in newsletters, bulletin boards, and future promotions. Consider videotaping fun events — you can even collect video testimonials for use at company meetings.

  • Plan how you’ll evaluate interventions from the start. Make sure you have a way to measure participation, satisfaction, and related health benefits.

  • There’s a lot to consider when choosing interventions for your wellness program. Don’t overdo, especially if your program is new and your resources are scarce. Give yourself time for adequate research, planning, and promotion. Next year you’ll know so much more, and be able to refine the activities that worked, drop the duds, and add exciting new programs.

  • References
    Chapman, L., What Newer Forms of Health Management Technology Can Be Used in Programming? The Art of Health Promotion, September/October 1997, Vol. 1, No 4.

    Health Promotion: Sourcebook for Small Businesses published by the Wellness Councils
    of America and Canada. Call (402) 827-3590 to order.

    O’Donnell, M., Design of Workplace Health Promotion Programs, 1995. Call (800) 783-9913 to order.

    3. Collecting Data to Drive Health Efforts

    Benchmark #3: Collecting Data to Drive Your Health Efforts

    Your Dashboard for Success
    Building a health promotion program that impacts the health of the organization is hard work. More recently the field of health promotion has shifted from activity centered programs to results-oriented.

    So what is the difference? Activity centered programs are those that sound good, look good, and allow people to feel good, but contribute relatively little to the bottom line. On the other hand, results-oriented programs are carefully researched, intricately designed, and flawlessly executed. Sound difficult? It’s not as complex as it may seem. Perhaps the most important thing you can do to build a wellness program is to collect data.

    What You’ll Learn In This Online Monograph
  • Why it’s crucial to gather data before planning health interventions

  • The two types of information to collect

  • Where to find the data you need

  • Evaluating the information you gather

  • Who to tell about your results, and how

  • Balancing corporate needs and employee interests

  • Tips for successful data collection and analysis

  • How Not to Plan for Corporate Health
    Your company employs many women under the age of 45 in telephone sales and customer service. The health promotion committee, however, is mostly upper management, and they don’t conduct any objective needs assessment. They decide to build a nifty executive fitness center and offer prostate cancer screening annually. Morale improves in upper management, but health claims continue to soar, and the company keeps losing valued employees from the rank and file. Without collecting data the real needs of the company go unnoticed.

    In a 1992 survey, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion found:
  • 81% of private worksites with 50+ employees offered health promotion activities

  • Only 49% of these worksites analyzed health care costs before implementing activities

  • Only 27% conducted needs assessments first

  • Why you need to gather data before planning health interventions
    In our market-oriented society, businesses wouldn’t dream of introducing new products without doing market research. Likewise, politicians barely speak without taking polls, and Hollywood screens movies with focus groups before releasing them. Yet 73% of businesses offering health promotion activities do so without conducting needs assessments. They plan activity-centered programs with no objective information to indicate that the activity is needed, wanted, or even useful. And here’s the worst part — even if they’ve guessed well, and the activity was productive, they’ll never be able to prove it without “before and after” data.

    And as you know, market reserach is going to cost money. Where are you going to get a bundle of money and advanced research techniques? Not to worry. You have immediate sources of information at your fingertips, and other resources available which don’t have to cost a fortune.

    The two types of data to collect
    Your team should ask and answer these two questions: 1) What does the business need out of their health promotion efforts? and, 2) What do the employees want?

    If you ignore the first question, sooner or later your health promotion efforts will get downsized out of existence. You have to provide a business benefit to justify your existence — and the best way to begin is by meeting business needs.

    If you set up your program without knowing what the employees are interested in, you’ll be doing aerobics by yourself. You need to know what’s going to attract participation and enthusiasm from the onset.

    1. Where to find business needs data
    Medical claims. How much is your business paying for employee medical care? Are there trends in the claims data? Are injuries increasing?
    If you’re self-insured, your benefits manager can analyze claims and tell you where the dollars are going. If you’re under a managed care plan, check with your provider.

    Disability. What causes employees to become disabled? Are your claims related to injuries from heavy lifting, repetitive motion, or perhaps stress due to extensive travel? Disabled employees can be very expensive; the more you can learn about this area, the better.

    Facility Assessment. This is an objective look at the health and safety of your building. It includes looking at work stations, ergonomics, eating facilities, temperature, lighting, security, hygiene, crowding, isolation, fire safety, slippery floors — any factors which affect the potential health of your workers.

    Health Risk Appraisals. HRAs are health questionnaires that may contain from 15 to 50 questions which your employees answer about their health habits and histories. You can write your own, or purchase them from vendors, who score the answers and provide confidential health risk reports to employees and an aggregate report to the company.

    HRAs should be done annually so you can track the health of your employee group, and alert individuals to their health risks.

    Screening Data. This data, often collected at health fairs, is a great supplement to HRAs. Blood pressure, height/weight ratios, cholesterol levels, hearing, and other variables can be directly measured. Your employee population should determine which tests are appropriate, since age and gender are factors in many health conditions. It may be too expensive to screen for everything — you may want to gather this information every two years.

    Culture Audit. A culture audit, often a questionnaire, assesses the organizational culture and whether it promotes health. It looks at the unwritten rules and assumptions which pervade the company — the stuff that may not be in the policy and procedures manual, but which everyone goes by. For example, are employees who are coming down with colds (when they’re the most contagious) expected to come to work anyway? If you have a flex time policy, are those who take advantage of it penalized, or is use truly allowed?

    It’s great that the CEO says that “Our number one concern is the health and well-being of our employees.” With a culture audit, you can find out whether the message has gotten across, by asking the employees if they feel the company’s concern.

    Absenteeism. Your absenteeism rates are a good indicator of the health and morale of your employees.

    These business needs data provide a good picture of corporate health issues. Without this information, you risk making poor decisions. Knowing what’s happening at the business level isn’t enough — You also need to know what the employees care about.

    2. How to get employee interest data
    Now that you’ve collected information that helps you identify the status and needs of your organization, it’s time to find out what the employees want. This is a matter of getting in touch, of asking questions and really listening to the responses. It can be done through focus groups, individual interviews, simple surveys, open-ended E-mail questions, or in meetings.

    Insightful health promotion professionals will balance corporate needs and individual interests — not an easy task. But unless you keep employees interested, you won’t get the participation you need to make a difference. Your goal is a marriage of the best interests of the business and the employees.

    Evaluating Information
    Up to this point, you and your team have spent time gathering needs data and interest data. You have a lot of information to sift through. As a group, it’s now your job to use the data to make strategic decisions. Not all information is equally important—you have to figure out what really counts to your organization.

    It’s not an easy job. But one thing’s for sure, you now have objective data to make critical decisions and create responsive programs which relate to the real needs and interests of your employees and business.

    Who to tell about your results . . . and how
    Once you’ve collected this important data, it’s time to get the word out, but how? Our experience is that the most effective means is a formal written report. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but should include an introduction, an explanation of why you gathered the data, how and when you collected it, what you found, and what it means. Get it proofread and appropriately formatted.

    Now tread carefully. Our first word of caution is to stamp the report “Confidential/For internal circulation only.” Submit it to your supervisor or to the senior level people to whom the wellness team reports.

    It’s essential that you don’t jump the gun and “go public” with your findings. Work through the chains of command. Why? It’s not your call to release the data to the shareholders, employees, or public at large. This is sensitive information and it should be handled thoughtfully and with care.

    Tips For Successful Data Collection and Analysis
    The best health promotion programs collect data regularly and use it to make critical decisions. It may seem like a lot of work — and it is — but a lot of companies are doing it because they understand the importance that data collection has on the impact of their
    programs. You can build a world-class wellness program — and you can use these tips to help get you started:

  • Commit to honesty in analyzing your data. The goal is not to judge or blame the company, but neither is it to cover up the facts. Let your report reflect your true findings.

  • Remember that this is sensitive information. Be very careful not to say things like “We have a sick building.” That kind of statement invites hysteria, not improvement.

  • Garbage in, garbage out. If you know that some of your data is poorly gathered, don’t use them.

  • Protect individual’s privacy. In a small company, one person’s poor health can really stand out in the data. Do what it takes to preserve every employee’s privacy.

  • Beware of data overload. Too much information creates confusion. Use only what is useful.

  • Data collection is not health promotion — it is a only one step in the Seven Cs to successful health promotion — you’re still building the foundation. Don’t stop now!

  • Take a new perspective at your company. Do a walkthrough, noticing things you normally don’t. Do employees look comfortable at their stations? How is the lighting, air, temperature? What do you hear when you close your eyes? How do employees look when they walk in to work? At the end of the day?

  • Listen with a new attitude. When your co-workers complain about their credit card bills or child care costs or how exhausted they are, consider what the wellness team could do about those problems.

  • Use multiple data sources. You’ll get a more accurate picture if you integrate the information from different places.

  • Keep data confidential and share it only through established channels.

  • Keep your data base. You’ll want to compare it to future data.

  • Be creative with the information you’ve gathered. Allow yourself to reflect on the data in creative ways.

  • References
    Chapman, L.S., Planning Wellness Getting Off to a Good Start. Seattle, WA; Summex Corporation, 1996.

    Green, L.W., and Kreuter, M.W., Health Promotion Planning, An Educational and Environmental Approach, (2nd ed.). Mountain View, CA; Mayfield Publishing Company, 1991.

    Hunnicutt, D., Deming, A., and Baun, B., Health Promotion Sourcebook for Small Business. Wellness Councils of America, 1998.

    McGinnis, J.M., Worksite Health Promotion Activities Summary Report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1992.

    7. Consistently Evaluating Outcomes

    Benchmark #7: Consistently Evaluating Outcomes

    What Is—And Isn't—Evaluation?
    Evaluation isn’t collecting data—although you certainly need data to do it.

    Evaluation isn’t promoting your program to management—although you may be able to use your evaluation results to do so.

    Evaluation is determining the value of what you’ve done. It’s figuring out what the data means in relation to your objectives. Did you get the desired outcome? Was the result worth the expense?

    It takes thick skin to evaluate honestly. You have to be prepared to reach the conclusion that some interventions didn’t work well. You may find that a popular program costs too much and didn’t really affect employees’ health.

    But what’s the alternative? Without that information, you might continue ineffective interventions. With it, you can look for better solutions. And when your results are good, it’s glorious. You can spread the word to employees and management that your program is achieving its goals.

    What are the benefits of evaluating outcomes?
    1. To see if your intervention worked
    Did you achieve your objective—whatever it was? Did employees learn about their health risks, get stronger or more flexible, or use the stairs more often?

    2. To demonstrate the cost benefit of the intervention
    To get the money to repeat a program, you need to be able to show that it was effective enough to justify its expense. That’s what cost benefit means — not that the intervention saved money, but that the benefit was worth the cost.

    3. To compare different types of interventions
    You may have tried three different approaches to increasing employees’ activity levels. With evaluation of your data, you can see which approach was most effective.

    You can also compare your outcome with industry standards. For instance, workplace smoking cessation programs are considered very successful if 35% to 50% of participants quit. How did your program compare?

    4. To provide information about the program
    You will produce valuable information about your program through evaluation that you can use in reports and presentations to management, press releases, stockholder's meetings, company newsletters and meetings.

    5. To give feedback to participants (and inspire others)
    We’ve all learned that the first rule in setting goals is to have measurable objectives. By publicizing results of evaluation, you can boost participation and show your interventions work.
  • Participants can be motivated to continue with positive evaluation results.

  • Non-participants can be inspired to join up when they hear that a program works.
  • Managers may encourage their departments to participate if you evaluate participation or health status by department.

  • What are you looking for?
    There are endless variables that you could measure and evaluate. Narrow the search by answering a few basic questions:

    What results do senior managers want from the health promotion program?
    Do they see the primary mission of the program as health risk reduction — or presenting a caring image to employees? Are they looking for decreased health care utilization—or a recruitment tool in today’s competitive labor market? It's essential to evaluate what management wants—if you don’t know, ask them in interviews or by survey.

    What do the employees want?
    Look back at employee interest surveys and evaluate whether you gave them what they asked for, and how satisfied they were.

    What did the Wellness Committee or coordinator want to see?
    Your program goals and objectives are the true North on your evaluation compass. Did you achieve what you intended?

    Prepare to Evaluate

    Health Promotion Market Testing
    Before you begin, consider running a pilot program and evaluating it first. You might offer it to just one department and analyze the results, or do a smaller intervention to see how many participants you get.

    Before you begin evaluation, you want to have your ducks lined up. You’ll need:

    1. Clear and measurable goals and objectives
    What did you want to achieve? Increased knowledge, behavior change, decreased cholesterol levels, higher morale? You’ve got to know where your target is before you can count how many arrows hit it.

    2. Baseline data
    You’ve got to have “before” data to
    compare to after your intervention.

    3. Staff who are trained to evaluate appropriately
    Evaluators must understand the evaluation tool and how to use it. From weigh-ins to statistical analysis, there are correct methods that should be used consistently.

    4. Incentive programs and rules are understood and fairly administered
    Oh boy—the last thing you need is employees claiming that incentives were given out unfairly, or that they were misled about what they needed to do to qualify. Be sure that incentive programs are crystal clear and evaluated according to the rules.
    5. Programs are well-planned with evaluation tools in place
    Everyone involved should understand how programs will be implemented and evaluated. For instance, when will data be collected? Besides baseline (before intervention) data, will you measure progress at the mid-point? Of course you’ll collect data at the end of the intervention, but how about three months later to see if the benefit lasts?

    6. Budget for intervention is set, actual cost data is collected
    To evaluate cost benefit, you have to know the budget allocated for the intervention and the actual costs.

    7. A communications plan is established
    Who do you plan to share your evaluation results with—and how? It’s always important to have the recipients in mind so you can tailor your evaluation to them.

    What to Evaluate
    Here’s the heart of the matter. What exactly do you measure and evaluate? Your choices will depend on the goals and objectives of management, the employees, and your wellness team. Here are some of the common targets of evaluation:

    The Intervention

    Knowledge and skills
    Before and after data can demonstrate that participants learned or developed skills as a result of your intervention.

    Reduced risk factors
    If you implement a comprehensive program aimed at reducing specific risk factors among employees, an HRA (or a specific questionnaire) could show that you succeeded.

    Participant satisfaction
    Participant evaluations indicate how likely employees are to spread the word and come back for more.

    Participation rates
    The number and percentage of employees who participate can demonstrate employee interest and how well your program is being promoted and supported. You can compare participation rates of different interventions as well.

    Effects on Corporate Costs
    Broader goals of health promotion programs may include helping to contain or even reduce costs. These goals usually take a longer time to impact.

    Health care claims
    It can be challenging to get and analyze health care claims information, but by working with providers you may be able to detect significant trends.

    Lost work days/ Workers compensation claims
    Safety is an important component of health promotion, and successful interventions can reduce injuries and disability claims significantly.

    Absenteeism rates
    Happy, healthy workers who are informed about self-care are absent less often. Programs that help provide emergency child and elder care can be evaluated by their effect on absenteeism, too.

    Many health promotion interventions address causes of “presenteeism” (employees who are present in body but aren’t productive). Depression, stress, financial and health problems are all known to decrease productivity. Effective programs may positively impact productivity.

    Was Corporate Culture Improved?

    Workplace environment
    An environmental audit can be repeated after making improvements in the
    physical environment, cafeteria choices, exercise opportunities, or safety hazards.

    Policy changes
    Changed policies that impact mental or physical health, career development, job fit and satisfaction, and work/life issues are appropriate subjects of evaluation.

    Perception of health promotion program
    Surveys that show how management and/or employees see the wellness program are an important indicator of the health and future of your overall program.

    Turnover and ability to attract new employees
    In this tight labor market, employees vote with their feet. A comprehensive wellness program can make an organization a more desirable place to work.

    AND NOW... Take a Deep Breath!
    Evaluation isn’t as difficult as it seems—if you’ve done the work up front. The success of this last of the 7 C’s of successful worksite wellness programs depends in large measure on the work you’ve done before. If you’ve got management support and a good wellness team, collected baseline data, established measurable goals and objectives, and implemented your interventions according to plan—then evaluating your program will be a natural conclusion to the cycle.

    Best of all, what you learn through evaluation will make your next trip through the 7 C’s much more efficient and effective. As you go around again, you'll be more adept at anticipating future needs, and you’ll pave your own road to wellness.

    Chapman, Larry S. Program Evaluation:
    A Key to Wellness Program Survival, 1996

    McKenzie J. and Smeltzer J. Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating Health Promotion Programs: A Primer, 2nd Edition
    Allyn and Bacon, 1997

    Schaloc, R.
    Outcome-Based Evaluation
    Plenum Press, 1995

    Health Promotion: Sourcebook for Small Businesses, published by the Wellness Councils of America and Canada. Call (402) 827-3590 to order.

    4. Crafting an Operating Plan

    Benchmark #4: Crafting an Operating Plan

    Why You Need an Operating Plan
    Decades ago, Thane Yost wrote, “The will to win is worthless if you do not have the will to prepare.” Indeed, over the course of history, poor planning has been the demise of many an undertaking. From Napoleon Bonaparte’s battle at Waterloo to Robert Scott’s fateful Antarctic journey to John Krakaur’s account of a group of weekend explorers who vanished “Into Thin Air” attempting to climb Mt. Everest, poor planning is blamed for many-if not most-failed endeavors. Plain and simple, failing to plan is planning to fail.

    Certainly, the same can be said for worksite health promotion initiatives. In fact, in what many consider to be a landmark study conducted by the American Productivity and Quality Center and the MedStat Group in 1998, one critical benchmark of world-class worksite wellness initiatives is a detailed, focused, outcome-oriented business plan. And, while this is not necessarily an earth shattering revelation for most practitioners, what is significant is that, according to a recent survey conducted by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, only 17% of U.S. worksites who offered at least one health promotion activity had a formally articulated set of goals and objectives!

    But why is an operating plan central to success? And what exactly are the components of effective wellness plans? Last but not least, if a carefully prepared operating plan is so important to the success of any worksite wellness initiative, why do so few practitioners actually embrace the process? These are very intriguing questions-ones that we will address in this online monograph.

    What You’ll Learn In This Online Monograph
  • Why you need an operating plan

  • The seven elements of a comprehensive operation plan

  • Accepting the Challenge
    By accepting the challenge of developing an operating plan, you and your wellness team will be forced to take a look at the big picture. And, if you are to be successful, you’ll need this exercise in order to answer the $64,000 question: How is your program going to benefit both your employees and the company. In essence, the planning process is the exercise that allows you to think creatively about what your workplace needs in order to become individually and organizationally healthier.

    The Need for an Operating Plan
    Let’s cut to the chase. Whatever your approach to worksite wellness, the odds are you are going to be much more successful if you have a business plan. Here’s why:

    Creating a plan forces you to consider your company’s needs, and strategic priorities. Both research and common sense tell us that those wellness practitioners who are able to successfully link health promotion objectives to business priorities are much more likely to produce meaningful outcomes. In addition, they have a better chance of having the wellness program firmly embraced by the key players throughout the organization.

    Your plan legitimizes and communicates your program to senior managers.
    If you are employed by an organization that has been around for several years, you can bet that it is driven by a business plan that articulates the strategic direction. Your program should too — and it should support and refer to the company’s plan. With a plan, your chances of getting and keeping the support and resources you need from upper management are significantly increased.

    A plan gives your program continuity through personnel changes.
    Let’s face it — turnover is a fact of life today, and without written documents, much hard work can be lost for good when a key employee leaves the team. With a plan, new members of your wellness team get a comprehensive picture of your program — right from the start.

    A plan provides the energy to get things moving.
    Because the operating plan articulates your specific goals and objectives — the things that need to get done — it is invaluable in holding your group accountable for its actions. In essence, the accountability created by carefully developed goals and objectives serves as a kind of productive energy that fuels the fire of your team, thus propelling the team into action.

    A plan serves as a means to measure — and prove — the effectiveness of your program. Because your plan captures both your present position and where you would like to be a year from now, it serves as an important barometer for measuring change. What’s more, when you submit next year’s budget, it sure helps to have documentation to show progress toward your goals.

    The Seven Elements of an Operating Plan
    As the cornerstone of your program, it is essential that your plan address several important elements. Generally, the wellness plan will, at a minimum, cover the following components: the overall goal of the program, the specific objectives, the implementation strategies and timeline, the communication mix, and the detailed budget.

    1. Vision Statement
    Your vision statement is the envisioned future you are trying to achieve. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article authored by management legends James Collins and Jerry Porras, vision statements are somewhat paradoxical things which must convey concreteness — something visible, vivid, and real, and they must address a time yet unrealized — complete with dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

    2. Goals
    Your goals allow you to articulate precisely when it is you will “declare victory.” In light of this, your goals should be given careful consideration as they will be the landmarks toward which you will direct all of your programming efforts.

    3. Objectives
    Writing good objectives is a very challenging task and will demand a concerted effort on the part of the wellness committee. To be successful, objectives must be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time specific.

    4. Implementation and Timeline
    Having established the overall goal and written SMART objectives, it is time to outline the implementation procedures and timeline. This section of the plan should provide detailed information highlighting the months, dates, and times the various programs will be offered. Information concerning individual responsibilities and methods of accountability will also be contained in this section.

    5. Marketing and Communications Mix
    This section of the annual operating plan should address the types of marketing and communication mediums that will be used in getting the message out to your employees. Company brochures and newsletters, e-mail, intranet, website, videos, etc. all represent potential vehicles to disseminate information to your employees.

    6. Itemized Budget
    Although health promotion programs need not require enormous resources, it is clear that, to be effective, some investment will be necessary. This portion of the plan should provide accurate, complete, and realistic information concerning the amount of money it will take to achieve your outcomes.

    7. Evaluation Plan
    The final section of your annual operating plan should address the evaluation aspect of your program and should answer the question, “How do we know if we have been successful?”

    Why Begin Your Operating Plan With a Vision Statement?
    In addition to immediately engaging the reader, vision statements serve to stimulate the creative juices of the reader to consider “what’s possible.” And, if crafted properly, vision statements can coax key players to consider what role they’ll play in creating this new reality. Ideally, your vision statement should reflect the core values of your organization and it should be bold, compelling and downright inspiring. Oh, and by the way, they need not be long or verbose — some companies have done it in just a sentence or two!

    Tips for Crafting Your Operating Plan
  • Do some research on what sort of health risks cost your company the most money, and address them in your goals and objectives. It’ll make it easier to justify your budget. Refer to your company statistics in your operating plan.

  • Also check out the HERO studies on the internet at their site: www.the-hero.org. Their data suggests areas where your company may save money by spending on employee wellness.

  • Use the talents of your wellness team wisely. Ask an accounting person to help design the evaluation plan and work on the budget, someone in sales to design the communications plan, and a good writer to edit the entire document.

  • If your company already uses a planning method, use it! Don’t reinvent the wheel.

  • Be sure that your operating plan is proofread, formatted, printed and bound properly. You’ve worked hard on it — the presentation should be worthy of the content.

  • Give plenty of recognition to those who work on the plan as you develop it, and by all means put their names on the final document for senior managers to see. Take group pictures of the wellness team and publish or post them.

  • Be realistic when you set goals, especially if you haven’t done so before. You want to set your program up for success, and a modest success beats a grand failure any day!

  • We can’t stress enough that there should be a close fit between the company vision and business plan and that of the wellness program.

  • Just DO IT!
    If you think that crafting an annual operating plan sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. But if you want your program to be taken seriously, to have a lasting impact, and to produce measurable results, you need to plan at a professional level.

    With a good operating plan, you’re in a position to roll up your sleeves and get into the nitty gritty of your wellness program — designing interventions to meet your goals and objectives. See the Choosing Appropriate Interventions section for more details.

    Design of Workplace Health Promotion Programs by Michael P. O’Donnell, PD, MBA, MPH. Call (800) 783-9913 to order.

    Health Promotion: Sourcebook for Small Businesses published by the Wellness Councils of America and Canada. Call (402) 827-3590 to order.

    Say It and Live It: 50 Corporate Mission Statements That Hit the Mark

    Social Marketing by Philip Kotler and Eduardo Roberto

    Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating
    Health Promotion Programs: A Primer, 2nd Edition by J. McKenzie and J. Smeltzer

    6. Creating a Supportive Environment

    Benchmark #6: Creating a Supportive Environment

    It's a big job
    Creating an environment that truly supports health is a long-term project that requires real dedication to wellness values and a lot of sustained hard work. The support of top managers is essential. Your wellness team must understand and acknowledge the current environment and be able to envision a healthier one, and have the patience to build that vision a step at a time. It's worth the work. A positive environment can help employees to turn healthy choices into healthy habits.

    What You’ll Learn In This Online Monograph
  • The power of an environment which supports healthy lifestyles

  • How to make your physical worksite environment more conducive to health

  • How corporate policies can support health promotion

  • The importance of recognizing and rewarding wellness achievements

  • How managers’ participation promotes a well culture

  • The importance of a stable, ongoing health promotion program

  • How to foster employees’ sense that it is their program

  • Wanted:
    An environment that supports healthy lifestyles

    How does it feel to walk into your workplace? Do people look happy? Is the place well lit and cheerful? Do you feel welcome, wanted and energized? Or do you feel a gloom come over you, and count the hours until you can leave?

    The influence of the worksite environment on the health and wellness of employees is profound. First there is the physical look, feel, smell, and sounds of the place. Then you’re affected by the policies, like whether others are allowed to smoke around you. After awhile, more subtle factors begin to affect you. Do your attempts to adopt a healthier lifestyle get recognized at work, or are they sabotaged? Are your managers inspiring you by being healthy role models? Do you get regular opportunities to learn healthier behavior?

    In a supportive environment, employees feel that the organization they work for provides them with encouragement, opportunity, and rewards for healthy lifestyles. And the spirit that results is highly contagious. Employees who feel cared for are naturally more loyal and productive.

    Read on for five big ideas for transforming your workplace environment into one that truly supports the wellness of your employees and organization.

    Five Big Ideas

    1. Friendly facilities
    When you enter a worksite, do you feel comfortable? Could you be happy working there? Is there enough light and clean air? Are there pleasant work areas, places to eat decent food, take a walk before lunch? Close your eyes. How does it smell? Sound? Do the workers have enough space? There’s no doubt that our physical environment affects us, from basic safety matters to subtle factors that can cause or reduce stress. Healthy environments often have these features:

  • Vending machines with healthy food choices like low-fat milk, fruits, sugar-free and caffeine-free beverages and low-calorie snacks

  • Workout area, walking paths, playing fields, basketball hoop, or other exercise opportunities onsite or nearby

  • Cafeteria offers healthy foods including a salad bar with low-fat dressing

  • Natural light is used whenever possible; all lighting is appropriate and adequate

  • Heating and ventilation is adjustable, comfortable and healthful

  • No cigarette machines, ashtrays, or smoking areas onsite

  • Noise levels are safe and conducive to concentration

  • Work station furniture conforms to ergometric standards

  • Safety hazards have been eliminated

  • Lockers and showers are available for employees who work out before work or during breaks

  • Stairs are clean and well lit, convenient and pleasant to use

  • Familiarity can make it hard to evaluate a worksite. People get used to stressful conditions and forget that conditions ever bothered them. It may be useful to ask people who are unfamiliar with your workplace to walk through with you. Professional consultants can also help.

    2. Proactive policies
    One clear way to influence behavior is through policies and procedures. If parents are allowed flextime to attend to their children’s needs, they’ll be less stressed. If employees can apply unused sick days to planned vacation time, they’ll save them up instead of calling in sick to use them all.

    Supportive corporate policies may include:
  • Seatbelt use required in company vehicles

  • Alcohol and drug policies are appropriate to the industry

  • Emergency procedures are developed, known, and practiced

  • Flexible work schedules allow employees to exercise, attend children’s school conferences, etc.

  • Nonsmoking policy is enforced

  • Excessive overtime is discouraged

  • Membership at a fitness facility is partially reimbursed

  • Shift workers are scheduled to allow adequate rest

  • Medical care coverage rewards good health

  • Absenteeism policy rewards employees who don’t use sick days

  • Employee assistance program is available to help employees with chemical dependencies, depression, family problems

  • Meaningful consequences are given for unsafe, unhealthy, prohibited behavior.
    Your company may have a policy against alcohol use during work hours, but if everyone looks the other way when someone comes back from lunch smelling like beer, the culture is one that permits drinking at lunch — and one in which written policies can be safely ignored. Prohibited behaviors must be confronted promptly. Otherwise your policies become mere lip service instead of springboards to health.

    3. Consistent recognition and rewards for success
    Attention, praise and rewards are given for wellness achievements.

    You can show you value wellness by celebrating your programs and those who’ve made lifestyle improvements in company newsletters, on bulletin boards, and at annual banquets, meetings, and celebrations. Incentives are a direct way to show appreciation, too.

    Wellness mentors are sought and applauded, too. Employees who support others’ efforts to improve their health are noticed and appreciated. Peer modeling and mentoring classes can encourage those who enjoy helping others to step forward into a new role.

    4. Managers model andsupport healthy behavior
    Nothing could say “We encourage you to exercise often” better than a manager going on a bike ride during the lunch hour — or your supervisor sitting next to you in a weight management class. Wellness activities promote relaxed interaction between people from different departments and at different levels in the chain of command. That promotes relaxed communication and a feeling of solidarity that is pure gold.

    Managers can also provide support for employees who are working on improving their health. It doesn’t take anything fancy — just a “good job” or “nice to see you at the gym” can put a glow on the cheeks of most of us.

    Managers can also help by allowing employees the flexibility to attend wellness events.

    5. Ongoing health promotion program
    It's important to give employees the sense that the wellness program is a permanent and important part of the organization, not a business fad. That can start as soon as a new employee is hired.

    New employees are oriented to the wellness program as one of the employee benefits. Information about the program should be presented by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable person who invites the new employee to participate.

    The employees are familiar with the ongoing programs. The programs and wellness staff are well known in the company. Opportunities to participate are abundant and it’s easy to sign up.

    A wide variety of awareness classes are offered. There are topics of interest for everyone.

    Policy changes can work wonders
    The 40% decrease in adult smoking since warnings first appeared on cigarette packs in 1965 has been a result of a dramatic cultural shift. We've moved from seeing smoking as a glamorous perk of adult life to the point that many smokers feel like social pariahs. For many, the impetus to quit started at work. When smokers could no longer light up at their workstations, they had to wait until break, weaning them a bit. Co-workers started speaking up about not wanting to breathe smoke. Smoking areas moved outside, then in some cases off-site. Awareness of the risks became widespread, distaste for smoke grew, and businesses, restaurants, airlines, hotels, and even some bars banned smoking. Business, government, and individuals changed their policies from allowing smoking to forbidding it.

    How to foster employees’ sense that it is their wellness program
    Health promotion programs work best when employees are involved in design, planning, promoting, delivering, and managing the program. That’s one reason we recommend a team approach to managing wellness programs. Some other ways to involve employees include:

  • Employees can give feedback about your environment via a culture audit. That's a questionnaire similar to an HRA, but one that measures how supportive the employees think your environment is. It can be used every couple of years to measure changes.

  • The wellness program can be presented as an employee benefit in the company brochure and recruitment materials.

  • Employees can help pay for the program, as in sharing the cost of joining a fitness facility with the company.

  • Wellness and HR staff must always protect the confidentiality of health data so employees trust that they can fill out HRA's and talk over health problems without risk to their jobs.

  • Employees can teach classes in skill areas, from sports to relaxation techniques to budgeting.

  • References
    Michael P. O’Donnell, PD, MBA, MPH,
    Design of Workplace Health Promotion Programs. Call (800) 783-9913 to order.

    Allen, Judd, Culture Change Planner, available online at www.healthyculture.com or by calling (800) 862-8855.

    Health Promotion: Sourcebook for Small Businesses published by the Wellness Councils of America and Canada. Call (402) 827-3590 to order.

    Allen, Judd and Bellingham, Rick, “Building Supportive Cultural Environment,” Chapter 8 in Health promotion in the Workplace, 2nd Edition by Michael P. O’Donnell and Jeffrey S. Harris. Call (800) 783-9913 to order.

    2. Creating Cohesive Wellness Teams

    Benchmark #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


    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.


    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.


    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


    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.


    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.

    Parting Thoughts
    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.

    Hunnicutt, D., Deming, A., and Baun, B., Health Promotion Sourcebook for Small Business. Wellness Councils of America, 1998.

    Kanter, Rosabeth M., Successful Partnerships Manage the Relationship, not just the Deal. Collaborative Advantage, Harvard Business Review, July/August 1994.

    Meyer, C., How the Right Measures Help Teams Excel, Harvard Business Review, May/June 1994.

    Rapaport, R., To Build a Winning Team: An Interview with Head Coach Bill Walsh, Harvard Business Review, January/February 1993.

    Wetlaufer, S., The Team That Wasn't, Harvard Business Review, November/December 1994.