You’ve probably heard that a “culture of health” is the best way to see success with your wellness program.

I disagree.

A successful wellness program should align with an employer’s strategy and culture above all else. The further you get from these, the more likely your program will be “a little HR thing” — and not a vibrant part of your workplace. Frankly, and with the notable exception of healthcare companies, health isn’t a top concern for most organizations.

Align any health and well-being programs with your business goals

Investing a few million in feel-good programs is easy. But investing in anything off-strategy is always a risk. If you are in the manufacturing business, wellness strategies should reinforce readiness, safety, discipline and musculoskeletal health. In retail, they should support energy levels, having infectious positive energy that helps customers enjoy buying your products. In healthcare, mindfulness and resilience play a strong role.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

The basics of eating, moving and sleeping better apply everywhere — but make sure to filter even these through the lens of what you are aiming for as a business. Safety? Sales? Patient health? Reduced employee turnover? Insert your strategic goals before you get started.

Do it in a way that fits with your culture

The true definition of company culture has gotten lost along the way.

Your company culture is the backdrop for everything that happens within your organization. It determines workplace norms, values and beliefs. It rules employee behaviors and experiences.

Well-being, broadly defined, is a key element of all great company cultures. Wellness programs should fit into and reinforce your culture — but they aren’t the point of your culture.

Why? Because, above all else, your business goals should define your company culture. The two have to align.

According to a Willis Towers Watson report, 67% employers say developing a workplace culture of health is a top priority.

But company culture and strategy can’t exist separately. And health isn’t at the heart of the business goals for every organization. Retailers might prioritize customer service while tech companies thrive on innovation. Company culture needs to support the main mission and goals.

When culture and strategy align, businesses are successful, a study published in April 2015 in the Journal of Organizational Behavior suggests.

Researchers collected data from 95 car dealerships over six years and found that when companies had a culture that engaged and motivated employees, they had higher ratings of customer satisfaction and vehicle sales. When employers neglected their culture, their performance declined over time.

What about health and wellness?

Businesses can embrace well-being and invest in employee health even if it doesn’t define the company culture. And they should.

A 2015 survey published by Quantum Workplace and my company, Limeade found that respondents were 38% more engaged and 18% more likely to go the extra mile when they felt their employers cared about their well-being.

Use that power to build a wellness program that supports your authentic culture and achieves business objectives. Don’t worry about developing a culture of health. Well-being initiatives in the workplace should align with the culture — not the other way around.

Determine why you want a wellness program. What are the goals, and why are they important to the business? If you want to improve customer satisfaction, what programs can you use to make employees more chipper? If you’re focused on innovation, how can you inspire creativity?

These specific goals should guide which programs and initiatives are right for the company. Then, connect it back to your culture.

If your culture values teamwork, bring employees together in sports games and competitions around the office. If you value community involvement, give employees time to volunteer or participate in a local charity walk. Every company’s wellness initiative will look different.

Building a culture of health might be great for some hospitals, but it isn’t right for every organization. Focus on bringing your authentic culture to life through a program that aligns with your business goals. Winning in business helps you win with well-being, and vice versa.

Does your wellness program connect to business goals? How so? Share in the comments below!

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