Solid leadership is key to employee wellness

Dear Well City Milwaukee employers and leadership:

While it is fresh in my mind I would like to briefly share my perspective on an outstanding Wellness Summit presented by BizTimes Media Thursday morning.

Five community leaders presented their wellness initiatives as part of a panel. Three out of those five were Well City Milwaukee Charter Members, one a WELCOA Platinum award recipient and one a vibrant small business owner. The panel included David Carpenter, CEO of Chr. Hansen Inc.; Dave Werner, president of Park Bank; Tim Jarecki, HR director at Hellermann Tyton; Jerry Curtin, CEO of Cultivate by Standard Process in Palmyra; and Jeanette Pham, vice president of Sosh.

I would like to preface my thoughts with pointing out that in the wellness provider community we can sometimes witness an approach from novice employers who want to quickly implement a wellness program without taking the time to listen to employees, follow healthy change management processes and may not have their employees’ best interest in mind. Oftentimes this approach backfires and creates a stressful and unhealthy environment for employees due to careless leadership. The Well City leaders who spoke at this event made it clear that careful planning, sincere concern for their employees and strong leadership was at the cornerstone of their programs.

It was impressive and refreshing to hear these five leaders speak with such authentic intimacy about their programs and passion for their best practice approaches. Even more impressive was listening to the common themes that were communicated from each leader. The WELCOA 7 benchmarks and authentic dedication to best-practice was evident in the remarks from each one. It is clear that in Milwaukee we have greatly benefited from the outstanding training we receive through our local Wellness Council of Wisconsin membership and the collective effort of the Well City Milwaukee initiative.

All five of these leaders boldly expressed these common themes:
1. Caring for the health of employees and families is the major motivator for their programs.
2. The word love was spoken several times throughout the summit. Teaching employees to love themselves enough to make healthy choices. Creating an environment that fosters that self-care.
3. Listening to the needs of employees and then responding to those needs. Making the program fun & creative – something they want to be a part of and will motivate participation.
4. Leadership example from the top is crucial to the success of any program. They are all actively involved and benefit from their programs.
5. Using data, learning and improving programs to continue engaging employees. They were familiar with the data and could share it easily.

There were about 200 attendees at the Wellness Summit – and many of the attendees were novice and there to learn. What these novice employers learned was the “best of the best” from these community leaders. We thank these Well City Milwaukee leaders for the time they took to share and mentor the community this morning. We especially thank them for boldly sharing best practice, their commitment to the WELCOA process and to the Well City Milwaukee mission – and mostly their commitment to their employees and families.

We also thank the BizTimes Media and sponsors for presenting the event, along with the Wellness 2.0 article leading up to it and best practice tips in the current issue. It takes all of us working together to create an environment and platform that supports healthy lifestyles.

As I’ve said before, the work we are doing through Well City Milwaukee is truly making change in our city. Together, by adopting the best practice process, we are setting a high standard and mentoring others through sharing what we learn. The Well City Milwaukee award we are working toward is more than just an award. Together, we are working through a healthy and safe process that is resulting in healthy and sustainable change for our city.

Thanks to all for your dedication, work and leadership.

Gail Bennett is the director of Well City Milwaukee.

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