If you take a look at some of the great wellness programs, there will be numerous common themes in all of them, including wellness champions. These award winning organizations (Healthiest Employers, Best Places To Work, etc.) recognize that wellness is hard and champions ease that burden; if it were easy, obesity, chronic conditions, and out-of-control medical expenses would not be critical issues for so many people. Establishing a formal wellness champions program is one easy and important way for employers to optimize engagement and program results.
What is a wellness champion?
Wellness champions (the larger the employer, the more there should be) are employees who are passionate about wellness and can serve as ambassadors of your wellness program. They are leaders of a grassroots movement that promotes engagement by helping other employees get involved. Some of the responsibilities include communications at their specific office location, being a captain in a team wellness challenge, and helping users setup their accounts and get involved. The latter responsibility is one that is often overlooked, but it is critical to success for sustainable engagement with non-tech savvy employees. Many of these employees are baby boomers and need a little help with downloading and using a mobile app or setting up a wearable device. Although this cohort may be reluctant to proactively ask for help, a wellness champion can offer their assistance, and once the employee gets over to initial setup process, they can be sustainably engaged in the program.
What are the qualities of a good wellness champion program?
A wellness champion program should feel like a grassroots movement within your organization, and like most sustainable grassroots movements, the leaders must represent the entire population they look to serve. This means the wellness champion group should be diverse in the way your organization is diverse. Wellness champions should come from numerous offices, have different levels of seniority, and represent the different personas within your organization. This will allow the wellness champions to be a subset of your entire employee base while reflecting their needs, concerns, challenges, and more. The better the group represents all employees, the better they will be able to serve them.
Good wellness champion programs also recognize and reward their champions for going well beyond their day-to-day responsibilities at work. Creating opportunities to publicly recognize their hard work or offering up additional incentives (gift cards, etc.) are also great ways strengthen the core of your grassroots movement. Although recognition and rewards will motivate wellness champions, it is important to select individuals who are already intrinsically motivated. Recognition and rewards should be the icing on the cake.
Another hallmark of a good wellness champions program is creating a formal feedback loop. Since the group should be a reflection of your employee base and interacting with users regularly, they are a great source of immediate information. We encourage having a regular meetings (at least once a month) for wellness champions to share thoughts, ideas, and feedback to each other. This will allow for wellness champions to learn and grow from each other and provide opportunities for iterative changes and improvements to your program.