Who Qualifies to Be Your Corporate Wellness Champion?

ChampionThere is a significant misconception in many organizations who aim to birth an employee wellness strategy. This misconception revolves around the question of who qualifies to be the Wellness Champion for the organization. The prevailing opinion will often be that the only people worthy of leading the wellness strategies are either nutritionists, dietitians, nurses or fitness gurus. While having an understanding of nutrition and fitness certainly is helpful to whoever is leading the wellness program, it is not the primary qualification. I likened it to the latter section of a job description where the recruiter will list qualifications that are “a plus” but not necessary.

Effective Wellness Champions are first business oriented. They are equipped with a well-rounded set of business acumen skills. Holly Firestine, Manager for Wellness and Worklife at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, affirms this. She comments, “A business approach to wellness, where there is a true strategic approach to programming and measurement that aligns with corporate strategy, is critical to the success of anyone seeking to lead Wellness in the workplace.” She continues by adding, “The Wellness Leader must have the ability to sustain the culture through stakeholder engagement throughout all leadership and staff levels in order to establish credibility and authenticity with all employees.”

Your athletic trainer may be effective in a Zumba class, but can she effectively lead in helping the organization meet its strategic initiatives? Employers are wise to look outside the circles of Athletic Trainers, Iron Men and Nutritionists when seeking to fill the position commonly referred to as the company Wellness Coordinator.

Yet, while widening the net to include candidates who have business perspective of wellness, employers will want to again narrow the search to land candidates who show potential for being Wellness Champions.

 What is a Wellness Champion?

Just as every tennis player is not a Champion, not everyone with the title of Chief Wellness Officer is a Wellness Champion. A Wellness Champion is someone who produces the right results. The Wellness Champion is someone who effectively leads the wellness initiatives of the organization. The Wellness Champion is a leader who successfully directs their organization in selecting wellness programs and offerings, measuring the success of the programs and creating environments where wellness flourishes. This person may have a formal wellness title or they may have some other primary role with “corporate wellness” as an added responsibility. Regardless of title, they bring success in employee wellness. They lead their organization into the winner’s circle with a work environment that promotes health and vitality.

Therefore, what do we look for in the selection process in finding that Wellness Champion? Below are 13 desirable traits for your next Wellness Champion.

 13 Traits of an Effective Corporate Wellness Champion 

  1. Wellness Champions Love People. Like anyone else they want a productive workforce and they want to be compliant with recent healthcare legislation, but they operate from a motivation that trumps all others: they love people—they care for their employees. They want the employee to be healthy—for the benefit of the employee.
  2. Wellness Champions Have a Passion for Wellness: They live with an underlying conviction that their organization will never reach its potential without a healthy workforce. They won’t rest until they know wellness permeates the organization’s culture and work environment.
  3. Wellness Champions are Committed to Personal Health. A passion for wellness will be evidenced by personal fitness. This has little to do with body shape, physique or certifications, but with smart eating habits, regular physical activity and persistent efforts toward emotional and spiritual health. They will “walk the talk” as role models of healthy lifestyles.
  4. Wellness Champions are Fiscally Acute. Wellness Champions understand the need for profit margin and profitability. They know how Employee Wellness contributes to the organization’s financial success.
  5. Wellness Champions Exhibit Organizational Skills. Like a General Manager for a Major League Baseball team, the Wellness Champion doesn’t need to be able to play every position on the field. Rather, they need to be skilled in bringing all the components together to fulfill the wellness goals of the organization.
  6. Wellness Champions are Connected. They can locate, vet and recruit nutritionists, therapists, counselors, fitness instructors and wellness partners to come along side their team and assist them in their journey toward health. They bring social capital with a network of key players to implement all aspects of employee wellness.
  7. Wellness Champions are Effective Leaders. They are learnerslistenersteam players and emotionally intelligent. They are inspiring and visionary. When they take a walk, others follow.
  8. Wellness Champions Gain Trust. They gain the trust of senior leadership. They are effective in leading-up by providing senior leaders with the metrics and research which compels them to join in leading the efforts toward corporate wellness.
  9. Wellness Champions Execute. They not only devise great plans, they follow through. They have wonderful ideas, and even better implementation. Pretty pie charts, graphs and strategic plans spark the imagination, execution ushers in results.
  10. Wellness Champions Find Solutions to the Rising Cost of Healthcare.  They are determined to control insurance premium increases. They refuse to find another way to shift the cost of healthcare to the employees. Instead, they create a wellness environment that aids their employees in controlling costs through healthy lifestyle changes.
  11. Wellness Champions Have a Holistic Outlook. They realize health extends beyond physical wellbeing. They strive to bring emotional and spiritual health to their organization. They find ways to reduce workplace stress and assist employees in coping with life outside of work.
  12. Wellness Champions are Creative Chefs. Instead of mimicking the wellness efforts of the corporation next door, Wellness Champions discard the cookie cutters and create unique menus of wellness offerings that appeal to their distinctive culture and needs. 
  13. Wellness Champions Know How to Have Fun. They know how to drive employee engagement in wellness initiatives by making it fun. They can drive competition and create laughs on the path to wellness.

These are 13 traits needed for an effective Wellness Champion. What would you add to this list?


This post was originally published on May 7, 2013 in my HR and Leadership Blog: Jack in the Team Box


About Jack W Bruce
Jack W Bruce Jr. is a novice blogger, husband and father of four, living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a lover of God, a reader and a wanna-be runner. Jack’s blogs include www.jackwbruce.wordpress.com and www.jackintheteambox.com. Jack can also be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/jackwbruce.

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