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Temp Check: Is Your Planning Process Truly Collaborative?

BY: Sara Martin, MS // CEO • WELCOA

WELCOA regularly promotes the importance of aligning an organization around a shared vision for employee well-being. The second step in our change management process for wellness (Benchmark 2) is all about collaboration across the organization to turn that aligned vision into a reality. We also measure success among our Well Workplace Award winners, in part, by how much they have been able to integrate their planning process for wellness into the overall strategic plan for the organization. The reason? Whatever your company values, whether it is employee well-being, growth, innovation, etc.—if those values are not built into the overall planning process, they will never be more than words on your company website’s About page. The employees won’t truly live these values, these values won’t define how your company operates, and they won’t be a true part of your organization’s culture.

This year as I started thinking about the right way to collaborate for planning to achieve WELCOA’s overall strategy, it struck me that I was not sure if we had been eating our own cooking when it came to collaboration. Did the WELCOA team feel that their voices have been heard in establishing our annual strategic initiatives? Did they see themselves and their skills and knowledge sets interwoven into our annual strategic plan? Wrestling with these questions and seeing an opportunity to galvanize our own team around those tenants of collaboration and shared vision-casting, we engaged in a new process for strategic planning this year.

Here is a quick rundown of what we did, why it worked, why it was important for us to include all voices in the company. Even if you use this to craft your wellness strategy apart from the broader strategy for the organization, the resulting plan will be a reflection of your unique culture and your employees’ unique needs.

1. Set key areas of focus upfront.

  • It is the role of executive leadership to set a vision and create the framework for what success will look like in the years ahead. What do we need to go after? How should we grow? What are our key areas of focus?
  • Once that framework has been created, you can take it to your team and get their feedback for how that vision will be achieved and what they see as the major barriers and opportunities to getting there.

2. Make sure every individual is heard.

  • It is important to include all voices in the company so that people feel valued and heard. When the c-suite sits in a room and makes a plan for the company in a vacuum, employees end up feeling micromanaged, left-out and without a voice. Employees want to have purpose, and the best way for them to feel purpose within their organization is to be heard and part of the overall strategy from the beginning.
  • With a small team, I was able to speak to every WELCOA team member to get their thoughts on what partners could help us achieve our vision, what tactics we should use to grow and what we should build to 2021. I also was able to get their thoughts on how they uniquely could contribute to our success in those areas. Not only did this provide the employees with a sense of value and purpose, but it also gave me insight and perspectives I did not have from my own limited perspective.
  • Obviously not all companies are organized to allow the CEO to speak with all employees in the company. However, this strategy is scalable for larger organizations if you leverage middle management. Arm your middle managers with your overall vision framework and ask them to kick off the process by meeting with their team members individually first and synthesizing major themes to share up to their leadership. Divisional leaders can collect these and report to executive leadership. You may need to plan out a little further to allow more time as you scale accordingly to report up through all of those levels. Face-to-face meetings (even if they are done virtually) are the best, but at the very least you can conduct a survey. What areas tie most closely to the work you are doing, what are the biggest opportunities you see, etc.?

3. Identify trends and areas of focus that keep rising to the top

  • The next step is to look through the information once it is collected. You will likely see trends and areas of focus that are mentioned by a number of employees and/or departments. These are the areas that your team values. These are the makings of the tactics that will formulate your plan.
  • Including these areas of focus in the strategy will show your employees that you listened to them. They will feel valued and they will also likely be more bought in to the strategies because they will feel a sense of ownership for how the work is getting done.

4. Write the plan

  • Put together the final plan by using the main tactics and initiatives you learned from your team during this process. Prioritize according to the vision for success that you initially casted.
  • Whenever possible, be sure to note the areas where you use the feedback from the team.

5. Socialize the plan with all stakeholders, ensuring it is clear how they contributed

  • Finally, it is time to communicate the plan to the company. Be sure to share the following:
    • Here’s what I heard
    • Here were the common themes
    • Here’s where we are going to go next
  • Recognition of the contributions of everyone provides more connection and accountability in terms of the organization’s goals because they all were a part of the planning process. You will likely find more buy-in from all levels because they will have a higher sense of ownership.

We would love to hear your stories of collaboration in your organizations. If you use this strategy and scale/customize it to fit your company, please share with us how it went! By sharing our stories with each other, we learn and grow together. Send your stories of collaboration to us at

Sara Martin
Sara Martin, MS // CEO • WELCOA

Sara has launched award-winning wellness programs and engineered work environments to create cultures of health across multiple industries. At WELCOA, her role is to ensure you continue to have access to the best products and information so you can achieve your professional and personal wellness goals.