Business of Well-being

Running a Wellness and Health Management Program? Where's Your Certification?

Wellness programs are growing in acceptance - and importance - in the workplace similar to safety programs.  As they expand, the need for more qualified wellness leaders who have the knowledge and skills to integrate delivery systems with evaluation grows too. If employers are going to make multiple yearly investments, senior leaders cannot afford to waste time or dollars on programs that do not entail the best practices, adhere to clinical guidelines, or demonstrate the latest advances and emerging trends.

Employers also need to know that their investment in wellness programs is being used to efficiently and effectively design comprehensive integrated programs, effective incentive plans, engagement and re-engagement strategies, mobile applications, ways to measure results that mitigate risks and readiness to change, as well as developing ways to reduce the trends that increase healthcare costs.

This is why wellness certification programs are so important. When certified wellness leaders are managing such programs, employers can be reassured that what they are providing to their employees is substantial, has proven benefits, and positive/measurable results.

Certification Programs...

  • Identify true experts in the field of wellness and help to train wellness champions.
  • Provide employers with metrics essential to supporting wellness and health productivity programs; scorecard of each company and how company ABC compares with the vendors total book of business.
  • Provide instruction on return-on-investment calculations that can provide employers with the best information.
  • Show how to communicate with varied demographic populations and achieve targeted, messaging for sub-groups to enhance continuation of programs year round.

Changing the culture...

Organizational culture must be positive before individual and interpersonal (teams) behaviors can change. A wellness culture must be supported by senior leaders, be based on trust (psychological safety in the environment), shared norms/rules, expectations, and a genuine feeling that employers care about employees. Employers must capture the hearts and minds of their employees; and preferably, adult dependents and spouses.

Leaders must manage the culture and culture helps drives the results. Changing the culture isn't just a tactic as holding a weight race; for example, it's making the weight race a strategic choice to not only help others reach a healthy weight, but to reinforce striving towards sustainable lifestyle choices.  

It's not just encouraging employees to eat healthy; it's making the healthy choices easier choices to make in lunchrooms and cafeterias. It's making the choice to take the stairs - versus riding the elevator - more appealing. The most important ingredient needed to accomplish this change in culture is having people who understand the importance of the peer (social) support necessary to affect meaningful changes in workplace behavior.  

Employees who value their health exhibit high/positive energy levels, greater resilience, and can also prevent - or minimize - "worker fatigue." They replenish their energy with healthy work-life balance and making quality time for family, friends, interests, and hobbies.  Besides these things, it also presents a way for people to give back to the community where they live, work, and play.

Essential elements of a wellness certification program:

  • A thorough teaching of the latest industry standards and best practices.
  • Instruction in programs that sustain long-term behavior changes and engagement.
  • Instruction in how to increase high performance, resilience, and energy, while decreasing health care cost trends.
  • It should be a competency-based program.
  • It should provide the most recent and relevant resources.
  • It should include pre- and post-training assessments.
  • It should teach how to expand and strengthen integrated programs.
  • It should include real testimonials and lessons learned about how such programs make a real difference in people's lives.

Not all companies would benefit from the same wellness certification program. For instance, some wellness certification programs distinguish themselves by placing more emphasis on the clinical aspects of wellness and on specific health conditions. Others put more attention on one-on-one services such as personal training, health coaching using motivational interviewing, or on team activities - such as a walking-run campaign.

The key is to find the programs that work best for your company.  Successful corporate wellness programs engage employees from the top down AND from the bottom up (simultaneously).  Wellness certification programs need to provide tools that leverage technology, social media, and the power of social support.  

If executed properly, intrinsic motivation becomes the key sustainable driver. Wellness certification programs need to be able to allow you find answer to these essential questions about your organization and its commitment to wellness:

  1. Does your senior leadership team emphasize and reinforce with employees the core values of psychological safety, trust, respect, recognition and autonomy? Are your leaders transparent, authentic, and compassionate?
  2. Does your leadership team set defined employee expectations and annual strategic goals in addition to promoting a culture of health, mission, and vision?
  3. Do your leaders ensure that employees have an opportunity to provide wellness support to others in addition to receiving support from others?
  4. Can your leaders articulate to others how your company demonstrates and encourages meaning, passion, and motivation in the workplace and community?
  5. How would your leaders rate their own knowledge, skill, and attitude - with regard to demonstrating positive communications, positive relationships, and positive purpose - to help your team and organization thrive?

About The Author

Rose K. Gantner, EdD, is senior consultant for UPMC Health Plan and WorkPartners in Pittsburgh, Pa. She has over 30 years of experience in wellness, counseling psychology, and consulting.  She is the author of Workplace Wellness: Performance with a Purpose, which is available at

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→