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How to Recruit Champions for your Wellness Team

Colleen Reilly

A group of business professionals in a foot race, with one being the champion.

All cultures have leaders—people who understand the guiding principles of that culture and can help motivate a large group to take action and be successful. A wellness culture is no different.

Your organizational wellness program will be met with different reactions: enthusiasm, skepticism, interest, passion, apathy, and doubt. No one person can build a culture of wellness that effectively responds to all of these reactions. You need a team of leaders—wellness champions—who can personally motivate employees to work toward their wellness goals. This team of wellness leaders will help you to lay the foundation for your culture of wellness and help it to grow and prosper every day.

Who are they?

Properly identifying wellness leaders in your organization is very important since these individuals will set the tone for your entire program and develop your culture.

A good place to start is by approaching leaders in your organization who you know may have an interest in wellness. Keep your eyes and ears open for avid exercise and health food enthusiasts and seek out people who believe in the program and may have a personal testament to how focusing on wellness has worked for them in both their personal and professional life.

It’s best to recruit a diverse team of leaders—a team of champions that can build physical, professional, personal, and financial wellness among your employees will give individuals a myriad of human resources to approach when they have questions, concerns, or new ideas for programming.

Also, be sure to recruit champions from various levels of your organization. Some associates may find it intimidating to approach an executive for support, but they wouldn’t have a second thought about approaching a peer.

The only prerequisite for your champion team is that the team members have an enthusiastic, positive attitude toward wellness that they are willing to share.

How do they get started?

Once you have selected your wellness champion team, the first important step is to make sure that they are educated about your program, goals, initiatives, and expectations.

Schedule an orientation session in which you can take time to talk about your population’s health risks, share your plans to help minimize these risks, and get feedback on programming ideas. Discuss the tools and resources that are available to employees and set some expectations for the champion team. Let the team members know what their role will be on the individual, departmental, and organizational levels. If you expect champions to bring you on-going feedback, let them know. Maybe you’d like to set a goal for each champion team member to lead a monthly lunch-and-learn meeting or have them encourage employees to walk around the office building during breaks.

Let’s talk

A key component to having a successful team of wellness champions is communication. Whether you feel that monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly meetings are necessary, be sure to schedule specific time for the team to communicate as a whole on a regular basis. These meetings will help you solicit feedback from your champion team, inform them of progress on current and new initiatives, and help you build a team atmosphere that can carry over to all of your employees.

Another important aspect of communication on your wellness team is feedback loops. Open the lines for them to communicate with you or other team members anytime. You may find it helpful to create an e-mail distribution list for this wellness team to facilitate discussions and to give employees company-wide one e-mail address to which they can provide feedback of their own.

In addition, you may want to assign certain team members to certain types of feedback to prompt on-going dialogue. For instance, you could have one team member that helps to evaluate new programming ideas, one that keeps a pulse on the financial wellness of associates, and another to examine complaints and brainstorm what changes could be made for future programs.

Turn them loose

Well, not exactly. Your wellness program is obviously going to be subject to corporate guidelines and objectives. However, allowing your wellness champions to take ownership by customizing programs to their specific office locations and/or work environments will lead to a greater feeling of satisfaction and enthusiasm among team members.

Listen to their ideas and involve them in brainstorming sessions about new programming—and take their concerns and suggestions seriously because they are the most involved in the implementation of your program and will have a first-person account of how programs are received across employee groups. This feeling of ownership will translate into a greater support for wellness and a contagious positivity for your organization.

Reward them

Last but not least, be sure to recognize and reward your wellness champions. See to it that peers in the organization are aware of their contributions and big successes. Personal acknowledgement from the executive team can also be very motivating and rewarding.

In addition to recognition, incentives and rewards can help motivate your champion team and increase interest for others to join the team in the future. When it comes to wellness, there is no such thing as “too many chiefs.” Consider adding a bonus based on your team’s performance or host a celebratory luncheon when your team achieves a major goal for the year. These rewards go a long way to show your champions how much you appreciate them and how important they are to the success of wellness in your organization.

Get busy

A wellness champion team can add tremendous value and efficiency to your wellness program. Your team will help to increase participation and promotion of wellness programs, distribute wellness materials, provide vital marketing and public relations support of programs within your organization, and inspire associates to get on their own personal paths to wellness.

When you choose the right people, educate them, empower them, and reward them, you will find that your wellness team is a vital partner in nurturing your wellness program for the long term.

Colleen Reilly is the founder and president of Total Well-Being, a leading provider of workplace wellness programs with a holistic approach to wellness—providing services that motivate employees to achieve their physical, financial, personal, and professional wellness goals.

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