many companies form wellness councils to incorporate a broad range of opinion and experience into their strategy and to keep all players informed so the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. in my experience, these councils are invaluable, provided they follow certain guidelines.

1. fill the seats with the right bodies. it’s a given that your wellness manager and others from your benefits department will fill some chairs. the rest of the seats should be filled by members of your communications team, in-house alliance partners (e.g., health and safety), third-party partners, and field human resources. you also want to include some average joes and janes from different locations and roles and perspectives: the skeptics, influencers and naysayers.

2. be upfront about your ask. make sure you get your agenda out in advance and that you specify what type of involvement’s expected. is there any pre-meeting homework or data collecting they should do, or can they just show up? should they expect to leave with a task force or other assignment? clear communication makes the difference between a sound investment in a day offsite and one that’s more questionable.

3. include outside voices. your thinking is enriched by hearing those outside your echo chamber. invite other companies to come and share their story. hearing from others about their successes and travails provides inspiration and validation, and creates a knowledge circle that benefits everyone.

4. make it about the data and keep it bite-size. before you bring everyone together, make sure they understand your progress to date. share data, such as your progress toward goals, your upcoming priorities and tactics, and your available employee survey results, so participants come prepared. then be sure to contain your agenda to a few related specifics so you have meaningful discussion and walk away with determined next steps.

5. invite dissent and skepticism. you know there’s skepticism and cynicism about what you’re doing and why. you need to hear it. ask your participants to collect feedback and then create a safe zone for them to air what they hear. keep the negative feedback from derailing your agenda by immediately identifying and prioritizing action items to validate or counter these opinions.

6. spread the word. your council is your ears-to-the-ground troop, disseminating information and pulling it back in for your use. equip them with the tools they need to spread the word about the work being done and to collect feedback to enrich future council meetings.

these are my tips for leveraging a wellness council. what would you add?


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a survey from the national business group on health and fidelity asked employers to shed some light on their approach to incentives.

based on phone surveys and responses from 121 companies, NBGH and fidelity learned:

  • incentive amounts have risen at all companies. the average incentive for companies with between 5,000 and 20,000 employees is now $661, up from $493 in 2014. companies with more than 20,000 employees offer $878, on average, up from $717.
  • planned use of penalties for not completing a health risk assessment or getting one’s biometrics is experiencing a downward trend. planned use of penalties for not quitting tobacco or completing a tobacco cessation program remains unchanged.
  • fewer than half of employees (47%) collected any incentive and 26% collected a partial amount.

the percentage of employees disregarding wellness programs has remained fairly constant, despite the rising dollars on the table. while fidelity calls increasing participation “the next challenge,” i’d say it’s an old and ongoing one, and one not necessarily solved through incentives.

read the official press release.


health, the healthy bottom line, and rose-colored glasses

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this post reviews the connection between increased wages and better business and employee health. for more on the topic, listen to february’s cohealth checkup, for which we’re joined by economist jan zilinsky and restauranteur bobby fry. this show will be available here beginning february 4th at noon EST.   in 2014, the movement to increase wages for […]

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communications your employees crave: hempfest doritos bags

August 20, 2013

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american heart association takes a stand against sitting disease with hotseat

August 19, 2013

between june 3 and july 31, 2013, nearly 250 american heart association employees and guests took a stand against sitting disease with the help of hotseat. they walked, they tap squatted, they shoulder shrugged. and over the two-month period, 76% found themselves more mindful of their time spent sitting and 67% took more breaks each […]

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