Published on : January 15, 2014
A Message of Wellness: Promoting Health with Effective Communications 1
In the midst of the debate over health insurance reform and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there are plenty of distractions, some of them spirited and others fleeting, but there should be one overriding theme to this conversation.
This theme, which has nothing to do with politics or economics, or conservatives versus liberals, this theme of unity and education is, instead, about the necessity of effective communication. For, without the ability to clearly - and persuasively - inform employees about the importance of good health and sound nutrition, it is impossible to establish a culture of corporate wellness.
In writing these words, I offer my own professional advice, both as a consultant who understands the challenge of crafting a message, which must resonate throughout a company, from loading docks and shipping rooms and fulfillment houses to managerial offices and executive suites -- to deliver a message across this vast network, where each employee is both the recipient of news and a channel for its repeated broadcast, to accomplish this goal is an exercise in patience and a commitment to something truly vital. In not so many words: Wellness must prevail.
The challenge, then, reappears as a question: How should a company develop and disseminate its message, so a culture of corporate wellness may emerge and gain permanence in the workplace? In response, I call upon my experience as the Founder and President of Pristine Advisers (www.pristineadvisers.com), where communications - for investors, businesses owners and analysts, including those who cover the health care industry - is a matter of clarity and conviction, not rhetoric or self-congratulatory sermons.
Indeed, the times demand nothing less than absolute transparency and leadership. Consider the circumstances companies face, at this very moment, involving the broad category known as Health and Wellness: There is the insurance issue, where millions of citizens must modify their existing coverage, find an alternative or pay additional premiums, complicated further by queries and demands from employees for answers to questions HR personnel may not have, and climaxed by a second (but no less important) assignment to promote this relatively ambiguous concept called a culture of corporate wellness.
The enormity of these tasks, in time and effort, beggars the imagination -- unless there is a plan. In other words, companies should, one, make corporate wellness a priority. But secondly, companies have a duty to define the term. Is corporate wellness a belief system with enumerated steps and milestones? Or is it more of a deliberately amorphous concept, where each person is free to write his or her code of conduct? Or is it the end-result of collective goals - to say, fight obesity and the risk of diabetes - so employees can be more healthy and productive, while also reducing the cost (to employers) of insurance?
To ask these questions is to begin the attempt to identify a company's core identity and principles. I commend any business that pursues this endeavor because corporate wellness, as a philosophy and a practical way of life, should be a priority for a company with a vested interest in its own success, which means that company has a stake in the authors of its success: The men and women - the workers - who make that prosperity possible.
I applaud such efforts, but I also want to remind readers that applause is reactive; it only happens through an individual's ability or a company's willingness to articulate a message. All of which brings us back to the necessity of clarity of communication, where the message itself is relevant and the delivery of that content - by email, speech, memorandum, consultation or in-person presentation - is critical. Translation: If a company cares enough to make corporate wellness an inviolable rule, then it must explain the why and how.
The words are nearly interchangeable, in which the former educates workers about the rewards of building a culture of corporate wellness, while the latter outlines the specific projects required for making this goal a reality. Both depend on excellent communication, as this project is a combination of show and tell, but there is a caveat: Do not decide upon making corporate wellness a priority, and through the mobilization of thousands of workers and the resolution of executives to move forward, do not, after all of this money and manpower -- do not allow purpose to succumb to pride.
In other words, have an expert refine this message. Let that adviser be just that: A trusted adviser, who has the independence of mind and the longevity of experience to know when to say -- Stop! For, it is easy to assent to the will of the powerful, but a message only gains currency and bears its soul through the crucible of dissent and criticism. The adviser speaks truth to power; he or she is conciliatory when consensus is scarce, determined when delay seems inevitable and denial looks attractive, and always present when absence is more absolving (of professional responsibility and personal accountability).
I encourage every company to embrace the principle of corporate wellness. Let each organization galvanize its workers and inspire its supporters. With sincerity of action and clarity of word, this ambition will become a reality. We need only summon the message, so we may secure the rewards of good health and a healthy attitude.
About the Author:
Patricia Baronowski-Schneider is Founder and President of Pristine Advisers (www.pristineadvisers.com), a marketing and communications professional with over 23 years’ experience in the financial communications and media relations industry.