By Jack Brown, ShapeUp  |  January 2016

The ultimate goal of any wellness program is to create an environment where employees are engaged, healthy, and productive. Those companies seeking to create a strong culture of health can leverage a number of grassroots approaches to reach their goals. One successful tactic is to empower key employees to serve as wellness champions. Wellness champions are employee ambassadors who serve as role models for their peers. Once this foundation of highly motivated employees is in place, a growing culture of health can be nurtured through ongoing communication and social motivation.

A strong system of wellness champions can ease the workload associated with running large programs. They can spread the word about your wellness programs, build enthusiasm and rally participation. Wellness champions can also serve as an invaluable resource for information and feedback on specific programs, providing management with vital insight and suggestions for enhancement.

Build and Empower Your wellness champion Network

How do I build my Wellness Champion network?
Reach out to employees who have demonstrated interest in well-being or who have volunteered in the past for wellness events. To recruit new wellness champions, develop a nomination system where employees can either self-nominate or nominate their colleagues. While selecting, look beyond the athletes who routinely volunteer and strive for a mix of personalities that your employees can relate to. Employees that are new to fitness and wellness may be better at engaging and motivating employees who are in the same boat.

How do I empower and support my wellness champions?
First, let them know they have the full support of leadership. Second, offer them the right tools to do their job well and efficiently. Champions should have the ability to set up local challenges, schedule events and send messages to employees. Communication is key — it is essential to provide a quick and easy vehicle, such as an intranet or dedicated hub, for champions to communicate with employees and other champions at their worksite and beyond.

If communication is key, how can I streamline and simplify communication between stakeholders (management, champions and employees) and, in general, ease the workload associated with managing a wellness champion network?
First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that every champion is still an employee with a full day’s work to accomplish. Schedule regular meetings (or quick check-ins) with a set agenda between management and champions to share program updates, ask questions, bounce ideas, etc. While it is the champion’s job to apply the new strategies, disseminate the information gained and communicate directly with the employees at each location, it is management’s job to make these tasks as easy and efficient as possible. Make sure that work is divided up among all of the champions, provide an easy method to “copy and paste” successful challenges at different worksite locations and utilize templates for common documents that are routinely filled out.

What is the best way to incent champions and keep them engaged year after year?
Never underestimate the power of recognition. Most champions volunteer for their positions, so it is safe to assume that they are already somewhat motivated to spread wellness and enhance the lives of their co-workers. But it is important to identify and announce a job well done. Set obtainable short-term and long-term goals, encourage friendly competition between champions and routinely offer new opportunities to avoid boredom. Above all, make sure they feel like they are being heard, are valued for the work they do and that they are able to make a difference in the health and wellness of their fellow employees.

Conclusion

Wellness champions are powerful tools to empower, engage, and inspire your employees across the entire company. By providing them with resources to connect with one another, they can share engagement strategies, wellness tips and success tactics. Frequent communication updates from leadership are also essential so that wellness champions can disseminate gained knowledge and promote the wellness program all year. It is vital to acknowledge and recognize their hard work and dedication with even simple thank you messages or incentives, if it is within budget.

Remember, the strongest promotional asset for your well-being program is an engaged network of champions. By building your wellness champions network, your evangelists can easily target all of your employees with localized, relevant wellness content creating a company culture full of engaged, healthy, and productive employees.

About the Author

Jack Brown is vice president of product management at ShapeUp in Rhode Island.