IMPORTANT BOSS NOTE: Before ANY boss reads further, understand that this post is NOT to take away or denigrate ANYTHING from ANY company or ANY boss that has attempted to make strides in installing, developing, and supporting a corporate wellness program. But, there's a great little book (like one of those "Who Moved My Cheese" books) I read entitled "212: The Extra Degree". Water is really, really, hot at 211 degrees. But, at 212 degrees, it creates steam and can power a locomotive. What follows is that extra degree that I see missing in corporate wellness (in case you're interested)...that can take it from HOT to BOILING...that one extra degree.
If you want maximum results from a corporate wellness program, the corporate culture, policies, and performance measures associated with the program (and flowing from the wishes of the boss) MUST extend BEYOND a preoccupation with driving down individual health risk factors (ie. blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, etc.) and reach into the employees' very being, their aspirations and goals, their hearts and their souls.
As I tell many people, you can pay people to hop on one leg. But, will they continue hopping on one leg, without the money? Do they want to hop on one leg? Are they happier and more productive while hopping on one leg?
But, is the company getting the BEST possible sustained result?
You can pay or punish people into losing weight. And, many companies do. And, you can unleash their desire to improve their health.
The heart and soul is where the potential for lasting change truly exists and where health truly exists, stops, and starts. The boss rarely "goes there". After all, there's a business to run.
So, why are corporate wellness programs mired in the mundane, misunderstanding the difference between coercing risk factor reduction and inspiring lasting health change?
The answer rests with the boss. Success in corporate wellness begins and ends with the boss.
In my opinion (and having been involved in corporate wellness initiatives, attempts, successes and failures...over many years), these are my 5 reasons corporate wellness programs don't deliver maximum results. The boss is usually 1 or more of the following:
- Too Busy
- Too Comfortable
- Too Detached
- Too Processed
- Too Afraid
Whether working "in" the business or "on" the business, most of the boss's attention is dedicated to the direct success of the business and its products or services.
Countless meetings, questions, "fires", competitive re-engineering of the business, itself, and many more pressing situations require the boss's attention on a daily basis. They'd "love to be more involved", but, "who has the time?".
The bosses have generally worked very hard for a very long time to get to their position of leadership. They've tried, installed, and changed many people systems, processes, and procedures over the years.
The success of the company shows. Why mess things up, now? Who wants to take on this crazy wellness stuff? It probably won't make a difference, anyway. What's the ROI, again?
Many are already doing "wellness stuff" or have a wellness "program" (whatever that means)...and feel pretty good about what they're doing.
"The employees have their own lives. They're adults. It's not my place to watch over them like children. Everyone has free choice. If they don't like it here, they're free to find work elsewhere. We provide a great opportunity for people to work, earn a living, and take care of their families. I'm not going to tell them how to run their lives. Besides, my HR folks take care of this."
Companies like systems, programs, processes and procedures that can be counted on to deliver consistent results. In fact, whether a turn-key operation or not, consistency is highly valued in a company...as it should be.
Bosses love solid measures, indices, digital read-outs, and financial reports to let them know how things are running. Weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol are easily measured biometrics and give bosses something to sink their systems-loving teeth into. Who has time to measure "desire for health" or "level of inspiration and motivation toward health"?
Corporate wellness done right requires a new kind of work, a different kind of work, a work that the boss isn't used to, isn't trained for, and isn't comfortable with.
Uncertainty, disruption of the "harmony" (whatever harmony exists) within the organization, and failure are ALL very real reasons that a boss may not embark on the incredible and rewarding effort and journey of transforming their organization into one where the culture of wellness, of inspiring and supporting employees on a journey to fuller living, of protecting the health and welfare of the employees and their families has simply become a moral imperative.
But, there's a reason the boss is the boss. Whatever the boss wants to do...gets done. And, for whatever the boss wants/needs in order to get the job done, no expense, time, or effort is spared. Forget ROI. If the boss want it, the boss gets it.
However, this time, the investment needs to be in the boss and the training and skills the boss needs in order to lead the company into uncharted territory...to the territory of caring, profoundly and deeply about the health and welfare of each and every employee (and their families)...about each other. This isn't about a budget handed to subordinates with a mission to implement a wellness program.
And, while the boss has most likely used some level of skill in rising through and leading others, in the world of health culture change, the boss may need additional training in applied:
- Behavioral Economics
- Intrinsic Motivation
- Behavioral Change Processes
Wellness isn't about blood pressure. It's about saving lives, improving lives, and helping people live as full and happy a life as they would like.
And, why is this the boss's responsibility? Because if the boss doesn't help them, who will?
But ultimately, it starts with the boss's DESIRE to do it. Period. Paragraph. Almost the end of the story.
Oh...and the company will probably end up with a happier, more productive, and lower cost workforce than without the caring. If not...it's still the right thing to do (in my opinion).