Engage Middle Managers in Your Wellness Initiative!

The support of leaders at all levels of your organization is essential to the success and longevity of your worksite wellness initiative. Senior managers create a work environment where employee health and safety is valued, supported and promoted. They do this through instituting programs, policies, benefits and environmental supports that integrate wellbeing with business operations. Senior leaders communicate the value and benefits of the wellness initiative for the organization and they link the importance of healthy lifestyles to business priorities.

While senior managers may set the tone, middle managers are the direct link to employees. They hire and supervise employees. They implement and enforce company policies. In this role, middle managers can bridge or block participation in your wellness initiative.[1] That’s why you will need to educate them and work with them to gain their support.

Start with listening to their concerns, needs and interests. Volume of work, competition for financial resources and personal unhealthy lifestyle habits are often concerns.[2]  Educate middle managers about the wellness initiative and what it entails. Help them understand what’s in it for them personally, and what’s in it for their staff. Explain the positive impacts including increased productivity, employee engagement and morale, reduced turnover and general wellbeing. 

Share the big picture with them by explaining how the wellness initiative and employee health and productivity connects to the organization’s overarching business goals. Offer stories about like organizations that have had successful wellness initiatives and how their management encouraged and enabled staff to participate. Provide program information, training, mentoring, and other support to middle managers to help them feel comfortable personally participating in  activities and promoting interventions to their employees.

Develop simple reports including metrics of interest to middle managers and include them in ongoing communications about participation and employee accomplishments. Reach out personally to the managers of various departments or groups within your organization to celebrate successes.

Find a middle manager that will act as a champion for the wellness initiative. Invite the manager to join your wellness committee or team, and involve them in planning, implementation and evaluation of your wellness activities.  Coach them on the science of wellbeing and how it links to productivity and engagement. Ask them to present at management meetings, communicate to employees and share your organization’s wellness story in the community. Then watch participation rise!

To learn more about engaging management, check out our February newsletter! The newsletter provides tips and tools for you to use. 

[1] O’Donnell MBA, MPH, PhD, Michael P., Health Promotion in the Workplace 4th Edition, American Journal of Health Promotion, 2015.

[2] Chapman, MPH, Larry S. Stakeholder Analysis in Worksite Health Promotion Programming, American Journal of Health Promotion, May/June, 2011, TAHP1 – TAHP8.