Awakening the “Wellness Warrior”: How to Capture Senior Management Support to Initiate and Drive your Wellness Efforts

March 5, 2011

Written by Katrina Walton, Wellness Designs

Support by senior leadership is the ‘make or break’ for initiating and sustaining successful corporate wellness programs[i]. No surprises there! In fact, leadership support has been shown to contribute more to a program’s success than the content itself.[ii] Indeed, it has been Wellness Designs’ experience that when the CEO gets behind wellness initiatives that things really start to happen!

In reflecting on our most successful programs over the years, this support has been demonstrated in many ways. This includes senior leaders cycling to work, having weekly massages, participating in team challenges, attending wellness events, and enabling staff to participate in wellness activities during work time. Each of these examples goes beyond simple endorsement of wellness initiatives and reflects active and visible participation, or in other words, ‘walking the talk’. This is perfectly captured in the following quote:

“When CEOs value healthy lifestyles and openly practice good health habits, the rest of the organisation is likely to follow in their footsteps. To be genuine in promoting health, CEOs need to embrace health as an individual priority. This does not mean they have to be a marathoner or ‘health nazi’, it just means that they value health and wellbeing and take steps to protect it’ (WELCOA 2006).

The starting point for any corporate wellness program is to determine the level of support and commitment of senior leadership. The desire for a program may stem from an employee, committee, or ideally senior leadership itself.

However, whilst Australian business leaders are increasingly recognising that ‘well employees equal well organisations’, the concept may still need to be ‘sold’ to senior leadership. This usually takes the form of a brief proposal to the CEO (or senior executive member) justifying the business case, including program outline, rationale and expected outcomes.

Prior to initiating a discussion with senior leadership, the following 6 steps may prove helpful:

  • Determine the key drivers for your program (e.g. escalating workers-compensation costs or boosting employee engagement)
  • Review industry and non-industry trends (e.g. are we keeping up with ‘the Jones’?)
  • Conduct an audit to determine the key priority areas in your workplace (e.g.  healthier onsite catering options).
  • Review existing resources and facilities (e.g. changerooms)
  • Identify the key stakeholders in your organisation and seek their support (e.g.  OHS Manager)
  • Conduct a brief employee survey to determine interest

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, barriers to leadership support will exist such as limited resources or competing business priorities. In this case, don’t despair! Many of the most successful Australian programs have started from humble beginnings, and have evolved into award-winning programs (an element of good timing doesn’t go astray either!).

Other strategies to gain senior leadership support over time include:

  • Undertaking a pilot program with senior leadership and/or management to generate enthusiasm and support, and create a cascade effect throughout the organisation.
  • Circulating literature (e.g. magazine articles) to key stakeholders and inviting them to relevant events (e.g. wellness forums).
  • Featuring expert guest speakers or successful case studies at leadership/management forums.
  • Cultivating leadership’s natural desire to excel by focusing on being an innovator and leader in this area.
  • Emphasising the important role of corporate wellness in maintaining employee resilience and productivity during challenging times (e.g. downsizing, mergers).

Need further help awakening the ‘Wellness Warrior’ in your organisation? Contact Wellness Designs today on 1300 914 558 or visit


i. World Economic Forum (2008) Working Towards Wellness: The Business Rationale, Available:

ii. Singapore Health Promotion Board (2003) Workplace Health Promotion Program: Pre-Planning Series, Available:

iii. WELCOA (2006) ‘WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks of Success’, Absolute Advantage, 6(1):1-36.

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