Planning and implementing wellness initiatives for your company can initially seem like a lot of work. There’s recruitment for the event, logistics to work out, people to get motivated, and a whole lot of monitoring along the way.
If you’re finding yourself at the initial planning stages for a wellness challenge and it’s feeling more daunting than you realized: sit back, breath and don’t worry. Countless other program leaders like yourself have been in the same place before you and now have incredible success stories.
With that in mind, one of the best starting places is to look at other wellness programs and learn from them. Seeing how their programs were ran, you’ll be able to recognize which routes lead to success and which pitfalls you’ll want to avoid along the way.
To kick-start our discussion, we’d like to turn to a recent episode of NBC’s Superstore that involved a company-wide wellness “step challenge”.
For those of you not familiar with the show, Superstore is a situational comedy set inside a fictional big-box department store. The store is not exactly presented as an ideal work environment, and as a result, most of the employees have become apathetic and unmotivated.
In season 4, episode 11, a good idea is introduced – one that looks like it might boost team spirit around the store. Glenn, the store manager, signed their location up for a one-week, company-wide step challenge. According to the rules of the challenge, each store would be working together, their combined steps going into a live tally. At the end of the week, the winning store would receive the awesome prize of… having lunch with one of the company executives.
Well, the incentive (lunch with a company exec) turned out to be not quite the best motivation to get employees moving. No one really cared about the prize and to make matters worse, Glenn, who promised he would lead by example, suffers an injury while announcing the challenge and is unable to help the team gain steps.
Just when the challenge seemed dead in the water, Amy and Dina, a pair of career-oriented employees took it upon themselves to get the store moving. The common ground they used to incentivize their team? Orchestrate a rivalry with another store.
The incentive worked in rallying their team, but the results were disastrous. Like most situational comedies, the events in the episode spiraled hilariously out of control. Employees got too competitive and tribal and the episode ended with both stores being vandalized and ransacked. Not exactly what one would call a resounding success.
Ultimately, the step challenge, while a good idea in theory, turned out to be somewhat of a disaster in practice. While they did manage to get their employees to bond together, it was for the wrong reasons and with worse results.
So why are we bringing this up this episode in our discussion today? Well, for starters, any show or movie talking about wellness always perks our interest (surprise! it’s what we do). But on a more serious note, it’s interesting how the writers of this episode clearly know a few things about company wellness programs, as well as the right ways to flip them upside down and make them comical for the viewers.
Obviously, we don’t endorse ransacking anyone’s office as the end result of any program (who would!?), but there’s a few takeaways here for companies running or looking to run their own wellness programs, whether they be step challenges or any other events.
- First up, make your event team-focused. Step challenges are often solitary endeavours that involve competing against yourself or other pre-set goals. Having a challenge where the entire team works together towards a common goal goal is an awesome way to get people talking and working together.
Ask yourself if your current direction will lead to employees going in the same direction, or each branching off pursuing their own goals. Any event that puts the emphasis on the team first should ideally be your first pick.
- Second, go easy on the rivalry. On the surface, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a little interoffice or inter-company rivalry. Some people are naturally competitive and enjoy matching up their results against those of their peers. However, any time rivalry is in play, the main takeaway is to keep it friendly. If your company is working against another, put an emphasis on having fun and good sportsmanship. This should help curb any negative behavior. Who knows, maybe they’ll meet again at the next year’s event and remember that initial meeting.
- Third, focus on the motivation BEFORE organizing the event. The main issue the store was tackling in the show was a lack of motivation – which didn’t exactly improve even after they launched the challenge. The employees didn’t feel like a team and the weak incentive wasn’t the kind of prize to get them moving forward of their own volition.
Now, that’s not to say a company lunch with an executive is a bad prize for participants – only that it wasn’t a good idea for THIS group. Every team is different, and it’s key to understanding what motivates, pushes and gets them moving before putting together the event.
In cases where employee morale is low, a strong incentive might be needed to get people involved. Where in others, when everyone already likes working together, you might only need a little push to get them involved. Once you know what drives them, you simply need to pitch it to your team.
- Fourth, work with multiple leaders and leadership styles. As the show revealed, having a single figure at the head of a challenge can go downhill if that person has to back out or if their leadership doesn’t get people moving.
It’s worth bearing in mind, that different people respond better to different kinds of leadership. If you have super competitive, athletic types in your team, they will likely benefit the most from a leader who is equally competitive and ready to push them. On the other hand, for the employees that like to bond and have a good time, they might only need someone who is fun, energetic and knows how to lift up the team spirit.
A final important takeaway is that there is rarely a one-size-fits all model for every team and every wellness event and challenge. Every team is different, and even the same type of wellness event might need to be tweaked just a little bit to fit your office.
In conclusion, it’s interesting that even sitcoms sometimes have insightful things to say about wellness programs. If you’ve been part of a step challenge or have one coming up, we recommend you can catch that episode from Superstore. It’s definitely not what you want a wellness program to become, but there’s enough in there that anyone who’s participated in one should be able to get a kick out of it. Sometimes it’s good to sit back and laugh a little, even if it’s about the same kinds of projects we’re working on.
Yours in Wellness,
The FC Squad