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10 Ways to Work with Leadership to Help Your Wellness Program Succeed

We’ve all heard how important senior leadership support is to the success of health management programs. But it’s not just senior leadership support that is needed, but leadership throughout the organization, at all levels. Nonetheless, it’s a common challenge:- How to get management involved in your health management program and transform them into champions who will proudly wave the wellness flag. Engaging leaders requires efforts in addition to your population engagement strategies. Here are some ideas to consider in communicating to senior management.

1. Encourage alignment with corporate culture

Connect your health and wellness program to the corporate culture, both published (mission and vision statements) and underground (how things really get done). According to Towers Watson, to tap into workers’ intrinsic desire to manage their own health and lead healthier lives requires wellness education, regular and targeted communication, and, perhaps most important, a workplace environment that supports and cultivates a healthy lifestyle. [ 1. Boosting wellness participation without breaking the bank, Towers Watson Insider, July 2010

2. Give them the facts

Circulate industry studies and evaluation results, but don’t assume executives or managers in departments outside of health and wellness will read the entire article. Provide a brief executive summary and highlight key points for them, especially points that relate specifically to those managers’ interests or department type.

3. Give them a role to play

Let leaders/managers know what they can do to help your wellness program succeed. Clearly describe what you expect from them and when. It may be as simple as “walking the talk” or as complex as changing corporate policies.

4. Show them they’re keeping up with their peers

Share research findings from outside your company. Managers need to see that their peers in other companies and industries are already on board with health and wellness activities. They’re more likely to participate if they believe it helps their professional development.

5. Recognize managers whose departments meet wellness goals

A little healthy competition never hurt. If managers see their peers being recognized for activities that are valued by senior management, they’re more likely to join in.

6. Recognize your supporters

Find managers who are active, positive health and wellness role models, and hold them up as examples to other groups. Keep these role models informed of wellness program objectives and successes so they can help spread the word.

7. Find or cultivate your executive champion(s)

These are people who believe in the importance of health and wellness, and are in a position to support it. Align your program with this person’s vision by gaining buy-in and collaborating on decisions and regularly let him or her know how the program is succeeding. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget about your champion in the heat of program implementation. You don’t want to lose this person’s interest.

8. Branch Out

You need support from managers throughout the company to help the program succeed. Make it easy for them. Send special invitations to health and wellness events. Offer simple activities they can use to demonstrate to their departments that they’re involved, such as fun competitions with other departments. Send them department-specific messages they can share with their groups either in person or via email. In a focus group conducted by WebMD with a diverse employer, participants shared their desire to hear things verbally from their manager.

9. Poll managers for their attitudes towards wellness programs

Find out what they think is important and listen to their concerns. Provide information on the value of health promotion programs: how these programs can help attract and retain key employees, or help managers meet aggressive deadlines by reducing absenteeism.

10. Listen and respect others’ opinions

Some managers already understand the program, but still don’t want to support it. You may not be able to change everyone’s mind, but if they believe you respect their opinion, they’re less likely to interfere with your program.

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