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Getting Leadership Buy-In and Support for Well-Being Programs

You’ve done your research and you know that a well-being program will bring important benefits to the organization. But senior leadership isn’t necessarily convinced. Or maybe you’ve had a well-being program for a while, but leadership enthusiasm and support is starting to wane. In either case, this article is for you. We’ve got tips for how to create leadership buy-in for a new well-being program and keep the momentum going long after implementation.

With many competing financial priorities and an uncertain economic landscape, it can be hard to convince senior leaders that a well-being program is worth the time and expense.

6 ways to gain senior leadership buy-in for a new well-being program:

1. Present a well-researched business case.

Cost-savings. Well-being programs often lead to substantial savings in health care costs, workers’ compensation and disability management claims.

Financial performance. A study of companies who received the Koop Health Award (awarded to organizations with outstanding workplace well-being programs) found that these organizations outperformed the S&P 500 index for the 14 years tracked. In fact, these organizations’ stock value appreciated by 325% compared with the market average appreciation of 105% for that period.

Increased engagement and retention. Studies have shown that organizations who invest in the well-being of their employees have higher employee engagement and retention.

Higher productivity. Better employee health can lead to reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, which increases productivity. Given the fact that illness-related lost productivity costs U.S. employers $530 billion per year, this is not insignificant.

Pro-tip: Tailor your pitch to the particular challenges your organization is facing.

  • Is the organization experiencing high turnover? Remind leaders of the cost of turnover (estimated at one half to two times an employee’s annual salary) and make the link between employee well-being and retention .
  • Are engagement scores low? Cite data that shows how engagement can impact profitability. Gallup offers numerous studies to demonstrate how high employee engagement has a measurable impact on business outcomes and the bottom line.

2. Benchmark your organization against industry peers or competitors.

Wellness programs are becoming an increasingly important to employees, especially those of younger generations. In fact, it’s estimated that over 50% of companies now offer some aspect of well-being services. Highlight areas where your organization’s approach to well-being is lagging compared to competitors, and explain how the proposed well-being program can help bridge the gap. Ask your intended well-being provider to share case studies of like clients who have successfully implemented a well-being program. To engage leaders on a more personal level, provide examples of other senior leaders who have endorsed corporate wellness programs in their own organizations.

3. Show alignment with organizational goals.

Demonstrate how the well-being program aligns with the company’s mission and vision, and how a healthier and happier workforce can contribute to a positive culture and organizational success. For example, if your values include employee well-being, make the link between this and the implementation of the well-being program.

4. Leverage employee feedback.

A solid proposal to leadership includes employee feedback. Share survey or focus group results and include specific comments that point to employees’ desire for a well-being program. Show how the workplace health improvement plan will address specific feedback garnered from employees.

5. Identify leadership allies.

Building a culture of health goes beyond Human Resources and should be a company-wide mission. This is why it’s critical to seek out influential leaders within the organization who are already supportive of well-being initiatives and enlist their support as advocates to help sway other leaders.

6. Propose a pilot program.

Suggest starting with a small-scale pilot program to demonstrate the effectiveness of the well-being initiatives. This approach allows you to gather data and testimonials before expanding the program.

Above all, remember that building buy-in is an ongoing process. Be ready to answer questions, offer additional information, and adapt your approach based on the feedback you receive from leadership.

6 ways to sustain leadership support for an existing employee well-being program:

Whether you’ve had a well-being program in place for a year or 10 years, it’s critical to continually demonstrate its value to leadership. Here are ways to sustain support:

1. Share regular updates on the progress and impact of the well-being program.

Track employee participation rates over time for things like Health Assessments, wellness challenges, participation in clinical management programs and engagement with the well-being platform. Use metrics, data, and key performance indicators to demonstrate how the program is impacting health care costs, employee engagement, retention, and overall well-being. Make the connection back to the organization’s strategic goals and values.

2. Invite employee success stories.

Seek testimonials that show how the well-being program positively affected employees’ work and personal lives and share with leadership. Regularly conduct surveys to garner employee feedback on the well-being program to show how it is responding to employee needs and changing circumstances.

3. Continue to benchmark.

Continuously compare the well-being program to industry best practices and benchmarks and offer insights on how the organization is performing in comparison to like organizations. Encourage companies to apply for industry awards to get public recognition for their well-being program efforts.

4. Involve leadership in the well-being program.

Well-being programs with leadership involvement tend to have higher participation. Encourage leadership to actively participate in the well-being program so they can experience its value first-hand, while also sending a powerful message to employees that well-being is a core organizational value. If possible, appoint a publicly visible executive sponsor who is willing to talk about the well-being program at town hall events and share personal stories to help bring the program to life.

5. Enlist manager support.

Managers are the front line to employees so find ways to involve them in health promotions, such as inter-departmental wellness challenges or “well-being minutes” they can use during weekly team meetings. Also, don’t forget to seek managers’ feedback on the well-being program as employees will often share candid opinions with their manager.

6. Remind leaders of how the well-being program can help with organizational change.

Change is a constant in today’s world. A well-being program can help smooth transitions for organizations who are going through a restructure, merger, or acquisition. A well-being program unites different parts of the organization around the shared goal of health, increasing camaraderie and impacting culture in a positive way.


Need help constructing your well-being program pitch to leadership or continuing to show the value of your well-being program? Contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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