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Power the People: Ways to Train and Recognize Wellness Champions

Having passion for wellness is a powerful thing, but it’s not the only thing.

To build a culture of health using a champion network, employers need the support of employee leaders with an abundance of positive energy, strong social skills, and enthusiasm for improving health.

So after you’ve recruited or assembled the best possible employees for your wellness champion network, what next?

Consider the business adage: Hire for attitude, train for skills. Even the most motivated champions require training, as well as ongoing leadership support and recognition, to succeed in their new role — and in turn, to help your workplace wellness program meet its goals.

A StayWell survey of larger clients with established champion networks found the most successful efforts share these attributes:

  • Leadership support to foster development over a number of years
  • Effective communications and networking opportunities
  • Opportunities to recognize accomplishments.

Your organization can demonstrate a commitment to these best practices by training champions in tools/communication channels and developing a recognition strategy.

Practical Training: What Wellness Champions Need to Know

Training is a partnership between you and your wellness vendor. The logistics may vary depending on the number and proximity of your locations as well as whether they provide onsite support for wellness champions. The objective is to increase wellness knowledge and enthusiasm across champions, leaders, and eventually your whole workforce. To accomplish this and build momentum, consider annual training for returning and new wellness champions. Here’s a Top 10 list of topics to empower champions for success.

  1. Goals. Share the priorities of your wellness program — overall and for the next year, describing how it fits with the organization’s strategic plan.
  2. Strategies. Explain which can be influenced by wellness champions to determine focus.
  3. Progress. Be sure champions understand how success in the program and their network will be measured. (StayWell offers a cultural assessment to gauge progress toward a culture of workplace health and to identify opportunities for future efforts. It includes questions about healthy foods at meetings/in vending machines and other resources available.)
  4. Results. Decide how champions will report on their results and how they’ll be informed about overall results.
  5. Communication. Confirm what communication resources are available and where. Consider an intranet or portal to make program-branded materials readily accessible. (An online resource called StayWell Activate includes custom promotions, education materials, and administration tools to connect and encourage site coordinators as well as champions.)
  6. Budget. List available amounts along with approval processes for incentives and other expenses.
  7. Confidentiality. Emphasize champions’ privacy expectations plus the difference between information sharing and information soliciting.
  8. Meetings. Establish when wellness champions will meet and receive updates, with contact information if they have questions.
  9. Collaboration. Define networking opportunities to foster collaboration among wellness champions. Common ways include group email lists, social media channels, networking webinars, work groups, and a buddy arrangement to pair new and experienced champions.
  10. Feedback. Point out how champions can give input and ideas about their network and the wellness program. Consider an annual survey.
Recognizing and rewarding accomplishments

Most wellness champions are volunteers and also have their regular job duties. To keep them motivated and avoid burnout — while driving participation and improving wellness outcomes — create a plan to acknowledge their efforts. Ways to recognize champions:

  • Peer recognition. Invite champions to share successes with their counterparts during monthly meetings or check-in phone calls. This has the extra benefit of inspiring others to adopt effective practices.
  • Special event. Host a breakfast, lunch or after-work celebration to praise their work.
  • Awards. Present an award for extraordinary efforts (Wellness Champion of the Year, Best Wellness Role Model, Most Active Event Planner, etc.) at an annual appreciation event and publicize it in employee communications.
  • Praise from the top. Have senior leaders give out the awards. Periodic attendance at wellness champion meetings is another way for leaders to demonstrate the importance of their work.

Just as incentives can be used to motivate employees to complete health assessments and other wellness program activities, they can also inspire wellness champions. Some ideas:

  • Point incentives. Grant points to individual champions or locations; for example, 50% participation in the health assessment could earn 50 points. Participation rates, year-over-year improvements, collecting testimonials, creating wellness kiosks, and conducting lunch ‘n learns, are other measures to consider. Points could qualify them to enter a champion network raffle drawing.
  • Other feel-good incentives. Gift cards, raffles, t-shirts with the wellness program logo, and certificate for a massage or produce delivery can energize champions.
  • Survey. If you use a cultural assessment or perform employee surveys, highlight positive results as accolades for locations and champions driving healthy changes.

A wellness champion network can positively influence your program participation and support your workplace culture by keeping employees informed, excited, and engaged. To learn more about wellness champion networks or to read the first 2 articles on this topic, visit www.staywell.com.


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