I recently spoke with a wellness leader at a small company who was feeling challenged to get 30% of his fellow coworkers to sign up and attend a biometric screening at their upcoming health fair. While 30% is a very low turnout in our experience, the biometric screening would be new to this group and, based on participation in previous wellness initiatives. the expectations were very conservative. The leader stated that a number of attempts to provide incentives such as raffles and drawings had been ineffective in generating interest outside the usual 20% that attended the company's previous wellness initiatives. 

This scenario is not uncommon amongst companies whether big or small but it can be discouraging for wellness leaders who work hard to coordinate initiatives and promote them through repeated email blasts and poster campaigns. To those of you who find yourselves in this situation, I'd like to say two things:

  1. You are not alone. Though it can often feel that, as a wellness leader, you are destined to be one of only a handful of voices crying in the wilderness, the truth is there are more allies to your cause than you might think. In fact, many times the best proponents for encouraging others to live a healthy lifestyle are not even part of your wellness leadership. Every day people are committing themselves to healthy behavior changes and  being successful in creating healthy outcomes. Your job as a wellness leader is to discover these individuals in your organization and learn their stories.
  2. People respond to sincere requests for help. As a wellness leader in an organization, it can be easy to feel the pressure to be a wellness expert. If you've ever found yourself debating with coworkers about whether or not it is healthy to eat 1/2 a donut then you have felt that pressure to put on your expert hat and convince them to see the light. When we become experts, we lose much of our ability to actually connect and help others because we are seen more as a resource than a friend and ally. So if your organization is struggling with building participation with an incentive laden approach, try something that won't cost you a dime. Try directly asking your fellow coworkers to join you in participating. When you ask, don't forget to explain why you would like them to do you this favor. If you include the why, your positive response rate will go up dramatically.

Being a wellness leader can seem like a walk down a long and lonely road. But when you stop and look around, you will see that there are many coworkers on the side of the road just waiting for you to connect and ask them to join you.

Enjoy the journey, together.