Having leadership involvement in wellness initiatives spearheads program success. This idea is often touted by brokers and wellness professionals. Even Wellable wrote about this topic is 2015, referencing a survey from Aon Hewitt and the National Business Group on Health. Now, another survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) continues to support the idea that leadership and managers are critical to wellness program success.According to the survey, 73% of employees who see their managers engaged in well-being initiatives say that their employer helps them pursue healthy lifestyles, while only 11% of those who did not perceive such involvement from management say the same. “Promoting employee well-being isn’t a singular activity, but is instead set up in a climate that is cultivated, embraced and supported by high-level leaders and managers,” says David W. Ballard, director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “When supervisors’ actions match their words, employees notice.” This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because organizational leaders set the culture and climate of an organization, whether it be in employee health or in another area of the company. This is why the Global Wellness Institute’s Future Of Wellness At Work report found that “caring companies” boost worker health and productivity, not wellness programs. Without company leadership taking wellness initiatives seriously by showing up to the health fair, participating in the wellness challenge, etc., employees will not see value in the program or think their employer doesn’t really care (they are just offering a wellness program to check the box).
The lesson employers can take from the countless surveys that show their actions speak louder than words is to genuinely care about their employees by offering programs that are relevant and matter to them. The best way to demonstrate this (other than through appropriate program design) is to partake in the program themselves. By doing this, employers can drive participation in the two-thirds of their employees that do not currently participate (also reported by the APA survey). In short, managers and leaders cannot expect their employees to participate in a wellness program if they do not participate.