No Red Tape Approach to Corporate Wellness
by Trina Gray, published in IDEA Health and Fitness Journal
Expert in Corporate Fitness and Creator of Corporate Fit Challenge
Corporate Wellness is the elephant in the room in our industry. You can ignore it. You can dance around it and say it’s not your thing. Or you can embrace it. Learn to dominate in this fast-growing field by putting your skills and passion to work for workplaces. There is room for creativity, so don’t worry about what you don’t know, or what resources you don’t have. Armed with five simple tips outlined in this article, you can inspire real change in a workplace, impact your bottom line and grow your brand.
Traditional corporate wellness programs seek approvals – from HR to on-site wellness committees to insurance providers. Once established, the plan has to be communicated to the employees, with fingers crossed, hoping they’ll participate. If employees don’t embrace it, they either get a carrot or a stick from their employer, depending on the philosophy.
I refer to this lackluster strategy as “red tape corporate wellness.” Years ago, before I knew the secrets to success, I approached our school administrators about launching a corporate wellness program for their staff. I was told that they had “I.T. issues to deal with, but maybe next school year.” That type of response is very common. Although wellness should be breathing down their necks, other projects take priority. Meanwhile, employees’ health and happiness continue to decline. Furthermore, if the leader is unhappy with his or her own health, wellness can fade into a committee.
But let’s say you do get in the door. Let’s say you offer year-round brown bag lunch talks, fruit baskets, on-site stretching clinics and wellness profiles. What happens? It fizzles and the champions go back the drawing board and come up with new rules and new rewards. These programs fail for the same reason. They are boring, logistical and don’t inspire change. They are flyers, paycheck stuffers and posters in the break room.
There is another way. Make it a special event. Make it about the people.
In my community, we have lead 118 corporate fit challenges in three years and I have seen hundreds of trainers and clubs do the same. Leanne Zdebiak-Eni, a trainer and instructor in British Columbia, turned her group exercise and Pilates studio into a hub for corporate wellness by offering short challenges with four critical elements of success: coaching, teams, accountability and fun. Your programs should be built on these simple principles. Leanne went from having no experience in corporate wellness, other than offering discounts, to becoming a go-to for wellness and a perceived expert. She led a successful challenge with her local fire department and that opened the door to others.
Implement these secrets to success:
Start and Finish It
Offer wellness challenges with a kickoff and a finale. I recommend six weeks. Shorter, focused programs will boost excitement, deliver tangible results and will increase participation in the company’s year-round efforts. Your goal in this scenario is not to become the company’s only wellness provider; your goal is to be the game-changer.
In doing so, you’ll create lasting relationships with the participants and can retain them as long-term clients or members, if your business model allows. You can book an entire year of 6-week challenges and create an on-going feeder system to your business.
Paint the Picture
Appeal directly to the employees’ emotions, future, health and relationships. Leave the company’s bottom line and rising insurance premiums out of the dialogue. Paint the picture that wellness is a better way of life.
Share a success story from your client who has lost weight, gained energy, or overcome injury. Go beyond the numbers. Share how their relationships have changed, how they are happier, how they travel more.
Use rhetorical questions at the beginning of the presentation to get them in the right frame of mind. These are tough, but they cut to the heart of the matter:
- Do you dread or avoid your annual physical?
- Do you take medication that you wish you didn’t need?
- Do you lack energy at the end of your day?
- Do you struggle preparing your family’s meals?
- Have you been carrying around extra weight for a long time?
- Is your health declining? Are you living with aches, pains?
- Are you WORRIED about your health, or the health of a loved one?
- How is your marriage? Are you happy in your relationships? Are you happy with yourself?
Then tell them, “That is why I’m here today. To help you make changes in your life that you have struggled with. Tackling change on your own is daunting. Tackling change with others in your life is a lot easier. How many people can say that their health is better than it was six weeks, six months or six years ago? Not many. But you will. At the end of the challenge, when we gather around the table to celebrate, you will have a great success story to share.”
Don’t Sell Logistics
Details of your corporate fitness program won’t sell it. Details confuse people and give them excuses not to do it. Sure, you’ll need to tell them what the challenge includes at some point, but don’t lead with. As best-selling author Simon Sinek writes, connect with their WHY. After they believe they deserve better, they are ready to sign up for whatever you create for them. Of course, deliver on your promise. I trust that you know how to get people to fall in love with fitness and fuel their bodies with healthier food. This is just about packaging it correctly.
Go into your presentation believing that the company is going to proceed. Tell them you’ve reserved a date two weeks after your presentation. They are motivated and inspired to ACT NOW, so let them. As you take questions at the end of the presentation, hand out applications.
Adopt the Friends and Family Plan
Traditional worksite wellness focuses on employees and spouses. The reality is that people will more likely adopt lasting change if they include their “inner circle.” Urge participants to invite friends, family, walking buddies, and neighbors. You are not requiring employers to pay for the challenge, so take that concern off the table. People can choose to participate and pay for it, just as they would sign up for a summer softball league. Sure, I encourage employers to pay for half of the fee, but I don’t require it. Take that obstacle away.
Use What you Already Have
Wondering how to get in the door? The answer is in your own business. Make a list of your raving fans. Talk to each one and say that you’d like to organize a fun challenge with their co-workers, friends and family. Ask them to help you coordinate it. They’ll look like the hero. You can certainly work with their management to promote the program, but don’t run your business on someone else’s schedule. If the management isn’t ready for wellness, their employees still might be!
You can do this program with or without a team, with or without a facility. Take the resources you have, compile them into a six-week offering and let it roll.
What could your program include:
- individualized workout plans (exercise prescriptions)
- clean-eating food plans
- food and exercise journals
- weekly group workouts (your place, their place, a parking lot, a church)
- small group personal training
- at-home fitness videos
- access to your facility, your boot camps or your training
- teams within the workplace
- email coaching, phone coaching, live coaching
- rewards, recognition
Tim Rhode, owner of the Maryland Athletic Club in Baltimore, has experienced membership growth, renewed energy on his team and built dozens of new relationships with business after adopting these simple strategies.
You now have permission to blow past formal proposals, pedometer contests and lunch ‘n learns to do something remarkable. Implement the secrets, be a professional and make the leap. Workplaces need you.