by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Now that the economy seems to have turned a corner and US business outlook is better than it has been in the last 4 years, allow yourself the luxury to take time to brainstorm some pie-in-the-sky, out-of-this-world participation ideas. Forget, for the time being, budget and time limits as well as historical participation. Allow yourself a half-day to noodle this idea: “What if… I could do anything I want to get people involved in a healthy lifestyle?”

Would you:

  • Hire more people
  • Do more promotions
  • Survey the population
  • Dedicate resources to family involvement
  • Train managers to be wellness advocates
  • Conduct more screenings
  • Run more campaigns
  • Produce (with folks from benefits, EAP, medical, safety) an integrated health and productivity website
  • Hire a consultant
  • Offer more on-site, hands-on services
  • Provide more expert resources
  • Partner with other departments
  • Hire personal health coaches for 1-to-1 counseling
  • Offer healthy meals/snacks with presentations
  • Reward repeat participants
  • Walk the halls personally recruiting participants.

Can you see yourself doubling participation? More? If you weren’t limited by time or money, there’s almost no end to the number of individuals you could help in enhancing their health.

Show Me the Money

Go get it. Sure, your budget has been pared back and you have fewer staff than you did 5 years ago. But check your annual report. Is the organization making money? If so, there’s a good chance you can get some of it to reinvest in employee health. You may not be able to add it directly to your budget, but by partnering with other departments, community organizations, your health plan, local foundations, not-for-profit groups, and individual work units, you can do a lot with a little.

You Have All the Time You Need

There will never be less to do in today’s organizations. How we use our time is the only thing we can control (more or less). As you review the list above (or your own), ask if there’s a way any of these activities could take place with little or none of your time. Are you really the person who needs to do it?

Don’t Be Limited by the Past

Historical trends give clues, but they also set boundaries. If you didn’t know participation numbers from past years, how would you forecast the rest of 2012 and 2013? You’d look at your market and project how well you can fill needs based on resources at your disposal.

Of these 3 limitations — money, time, history — the one that holds most of us back is history. We fall into the 5% trap… shooting for just 5% growth year to year. But if you let yourself be constrained by past participation, you’ll never strive for exceptional goals.

Throughout the year — whether alone, with your boss, or as a team — post these 3 reminders:

  • Show me the money
  • You have all the time you need
  • Don’t be limited by the past.

We’re betting your program participation will grow faster than it has in years if you keep these in mind.

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