Take Advantage of Wellness Program Recognition

As the humble leader of an employee well-being program, it may be tempting to sidestep the spotlight by not taking advantage of wellness program recognition. Do you choose, for example, not to apply for awards — dismissing the public praise often bestowed on award-winning programs? Do you pass up opportunities to present at conferences or deny wellness article reporters interviews?

But acknowledgment outside your organization goes hand in hand with communication inside, and, as a result, with your program’s success. Seeking wellness program recognition, and making the most of the opportunities it provides, should be an essential part of your job.

The benefits of wellness program recognition  

Participant recruitment needn’t limit your program communication strategy. Envision the bigger picture. Imagine outside wellness program recognition serving your participants, your organization, and your wellness program by:

  • Validating participants.  External acclaim — like local or national wellness awards or publication features — bolsters employee respect for the employer’s commitment to wellness, while chipping away at the resistance of those who remain on the sidelines. Employees want to know their company’s program is a winner led by someone — you — who knows their stuff.
  • Reinforcing a culture of health. Praise for your program sends a message to your team, participants, and the C-suite: Employee wellness programs are a symbol of organizational excellence and increasingly viewed as a must-have.
  • Helping establish your organization as an employer of choice. Recruiters will be happy to tout the wellness awards you’ve won or bring your press clippings to job fairs. It helps underscore your organization as a great place to work. A recent University of Illinois study even suggests employers with highly regarded wellness programs may attract healthier employees. (Researchers still need to hash out if this has good or bad ramifications.)
Motivating you and your team to higher levels

You do your best on the job because you’re dedicated to well-being and you thrive on results. But the extra nudge of potential wellness program recognition — meeting award criteria, achieving positive outcomes with a program innovation you can present at conferences, being featured in trade/local/national media — can keep you inspired.

Yet there’s no need to engineer your program just to earn the honors. Embrace the truth: Well deserved commendation, in addition to feeling good for all involved, is a powerful motivator. Remember:

  • Don’t sell yourself (or the fruits of your labor) short. Even if your program hasn’t delivered measurable outcomes yet, other aspects of your work are likely worthy of accolades. For example, you could showcase a unique use of technology, community partnership, creative wellness activity, inclusiveness strategy, or inspiring success story.
  • Request input from others about the strengths of your work. Find the praiseworthy features that you may have taken for granted.
  • Enlist your public relations experts. Collaborate to develop an external promotion strategy. (No matter what, make sure you have approval for any external communications.)
  • Ask your vendors to help you get speaking engagements and interviews. Most of them are well connected, with resources for publicity. In addition, they have an interest in you touting the excellent results you achieve using their products and services. It’s a win-win.
The snowball effect 

After a media report features your accomplishments, the story may attract the attention of organizers or other media outlets. A reporter’s web search may reveal a conference featured your successes. They’ll recognize you as a subject matter expert who’s quoted in print and may contact you as a source for wellness articles.

Soon enough, you may find you have no choice but to be selective about the many opportunities coming your way.

Making the most of wellness program recognition

Wellness program teams sometimes spend endless hours completing award applications. After they win, they exchange quick high-fives and stow the award in a filing cabinet never to be seen or heard of again. In other cases, a wellness publication (maybe even Well-Being Practitioner) may feature your program. However, no one in your company sees it — not leaders, not participants, and not team members who helped make the program what it is. One-and-done occasions like this may very well be a waste of time. External wellness program recognition requires its own forms of cross-promotion and amplification.

Some ideas for the road
  • Have an award’s approved logo and description added to your internal and external websites, program posters, and mailings
  • Encourage your organization to publish a news release about an award or conference presentation
  • Announce awards, media mentions, and speaking engagements on social media
  • Hang award banners where employees will see them
  • Plan celebratory receptions that include leaders and employees at all levels; use these as an opportunity to acknowledge everyone who had a hand in winning
  • Let your vendors know by sending a branded item that points to their role
  • Display the award where employees and/or clients will see it
  • Create poster-sized article duplicates to hang in breakrooms or a lobby.

It’s time to shed your modesty. After all, you’re not seeking wellness program recognition for your own personal gain. You do it to reinforce your organization’s commitment to employee well-being.

You work hard to make a difference in employees’ lives. Get out there and toot your own horn… make your participants, your coworkers, and your leaders proud.


Bob MerbergBob Merberg
Bob Merberg is an independent consultant with 20+ years in managing employee well-being programs. He specializes in helping employers increase engagement and health outcomes through innovative programs, communication, workplace environment, and organization development strategies. Bob’s well-being program evaluation results have been featured at wellness conferences and in various media outlets.

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Sherry Leggett
    January 29, 2019 1:45 pm

    Do you have any suggestions on wellness national awards to apply for?

    • Sherry,

      There are a few prominent national awards, and your choice of which one(s) to apply for may depend on your objectives in applying and how the goals of your program match the criteria of the award.

      The one I have most experience with is the National Business Group on Health’s “Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles” award. It’s visionary in its recognition of multidimensional wellbeing strategies, rather than focusing solely on physical health or return-on-investment. Having served as a judge, I know their process to be fair and rigorous. And it has the best “publicity machine” behind it, meaning winners are more likely to get some media attention compared to other awards. The NBGH award is best-suited for large employers. Info at: https://tinyurl.com/ybueojs3 .

      The C. Everett Koop Award (http://thehealthproject.com/) has been viewed as prestigious in the past. In recent years, it’s received public criticism. Regardless of whether one views the negativity as fair or not, it could deter companies from applying. I advise potential Koop applicants to do some research on the award and proceed with caution.

      The WELCOA awards (https://www.welcoa.org/well-workplace-award-winners/) have a long history. The organization has announced a new application process for the current calendar year, so I don’t yet know the direction the award is moving in. In the past, the WELCOA award has been a popular choice for small and medium-sized employers, as well as a few larger companies.

      I encourage employers interested in mental health and psychological wellbeing to consider the American Psychological Association’s “Psychologically Healthy Workplace” award. Info: https://www.apaexcellence.org/awards/ .

      I hope this helps!

      Bob Merberg


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