We just went through a five-part series on measuring the economic impact of wellness for employers. You get the picture – money matters! But people matter too! We have to speak to both sides of the executive brain to get the right level of support– by communicating both the humanitarian and the economic case for wellness. Let’s start with the humanitarian card.
Humanitarian Rationale: It’s the People Stupid!
For decades wellness advocates have told senior managers that wellness programming is a tangible way to signal how valuable employees are to an organization’s success. If senior managers resonate with that message, you should give it to them loud and clear. However, how you frame it can have a big impact on whether the arguments win the day. As in all communication, the most important element is knowing your audience. What are hot-button issues facing the organization? New competitive dynamics, aging employees, retention, technology, outsourcing—know what your execs care about. The key to connecting with executives is making sure wellness is seen as highly relevant in the very issues that are keeping them up at night. Here are some arguments that key into the humanitarian benefits of wellness but connect strongly to the issues executives face every day:
Argument #1: Wellness differentiates our workplace
- We wouldn’t have a business or organization without people and we need our people to want to work here.
- Most organizations including ours (yours) don’t provide real strong reasons for people to want to work here.
- Wellness can help them want to work here.
When to use this argument: In industries that compete hard for talent, this argument would be most powerful.
Argument #2: Wellness drives employee engagement by minimizing distracting health problems
- We need to have people want to fully engage in this organization.
- Unhealthy lifestyles often prevent them from fully engaging.
- Wellness can help them fully engage by freeing them up to focus on things other than their health issues.
When to use this argument: In companies with an aging workforce or facing change in their industry (when they need maximum flexibility from their workforce), this argument could be most effective.
Argument #3: Wellness drives employee engagement by proving they work for a caring organization
- To gain full engagement, we need to employees feel that we care about them as people.
- Most organizations including ours (yours) don’t provide much evidence for this.
- Wellness can be the tangible evidence that we care about our employees as people.
When to use this argument: In companies with aging workforces where retaining talent is imperative, this approach would fit best.
Argument #4: Wellness can improve community support for our organization by proving we are a good corporate citizen
- We need to be perceived as a “good” corporate or organizational citizen in our community.
- Most organizations including ours (yours) don’t do a lot to earn a “good” citizenship status.
- Wellness can be seen as tangible proof of our “good” corporate citizenship.
When to use this argument: When a company has a contentious or difficult relationship with its community, politicians, or regulators, senior management may be looking for creative ideas to strengthen public perception.
Argument #5: Wellness can improve impaired employee morale
- We need as much “good will” as we can get from our employees and their family members.
- Most employees and their family members don’t appreciate what we do for them now.
- Wellness can be used to help educate about what we do for them and can increase our “good will” quotient with employees and their families.
When to use this argument: When relationships with unions or employee groups are difficult, management may be looking for new ways to build morale, making this argument effective.
Argument #6: Wellness makes employees better off—it is the right thing to do with the organization’s resources
- The workplace is potentially a very powerful environment to affect behavior and attitudes.
- Most employers and organizations don’t utilize that potential to any significant degree.
- Wellness can capture and more fully make use of that potential.
When to use this argument: In organizations with a strong moral or ethical focus, or organizations with a faith based component (or heritage), this argument can be very effective. It also can be appropriate for non-profit and government entities.
Argument #7: Wellness enlarges the role of the organization to benefit employees more
- There is a basic moral issue about the role of employers in improving our society.
- Few employees do much about this issue.
- Wellness should be seen as the morally “right” thing to do for employees, their family members and the community.
When to use this argument: Similar to #6, this argument fits best when managers already have a world-view where they see the role of their organization as a force for good and are looking for ways to make a bigger impact. This approach fits best in environments with a strong service orientation such as healthcare, government, and non-profit sectors.
It is critically important that you narrow your communication to focus on one main argument on the humanitarian side. Even though we see all the many benefits of wellness, executives can easily get overwhelmed with a laundry list of rationales. Often they perceive that many ‘good’ arguments aren’t as convincing as one or two powerful ones that fit their strategic imperatives. That said, your best bet is to pair one humanitarian argument with a connected economic argument to speak to both sides of the executive brain and seal the deal! Next week’s post will give you some ideas on how to do that.
Don’t forget: building executive support for wellness is covered in our FREE excerpt of our Level 1 WellCert worksite wellness certification program!