by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

An independent perspective, fresh ideas, and third-party validation can help get you where you want to go faster, more efficiently, and often at a lower cost. But how do you know if you really need the help? Here are some clues:


  • You have high-priority goals that you can’t realistically meet.
  • Your program has plateaued (or declined) in terms of participation, health improvement, risk reduction, employee satisfaction, etc., and you’re not sure how to determine the cause and/or the remedy.
  • You need to “sell” an idea or programming approach, and you anticipate resistance.
  • You need to launch a service quickly — such as an organization-wide self-care program — to have immediate impact or to take advantage of a unique opportunity.
  • You’re in over your head. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Although it may be hard to admit, there are times you simply need expertise you don’t have and can’t reasonably expect to develop.

Finding the Right Help
The art of wellness is at least as important as the science, meaning you can’t Google a licensed professional with the exact skill set you need. And although several industry certifications offer some level of assurance, most of them were designed around a model of internal programming, and don’t address communication skills or effectiveness. Another drawback: Certifications often lag industry trends, so they’re no guarantee your consultant has leading-edge information or contacts.

It takes about $30 to have business cards printed with “Well-Being Consultant.” Before you believe it, review these selection guidelines:


  • Been there, done that. Does the consultant have real experience with the problem you’re facing? Have they worked in, or with, your industry? If not, have they worked in industries where workers have comparable jobs, education, culture?
  • Proven track record. Nothing says a hot-shot right out of graduate school can’t do the job for you, but you’ll sleep a lot easier if your consultant has a history of success solving similar problems and meeting needs as an adviser.
  • Specific, positive references. Any reference your consultant gives you should be glowing — if it’s not, run. Remember to ask for concrete examples of objectives identified and met.
  • Sustainable results. Your prospective consultant should be able to show where their work resulted in long-term success for clients. But also remember unforeseen events — mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, legal difficulties — can undermine the best advice or make it obsolete.
  • Rich network. A big part of effective consulting is matching talents and resources to the problem. No matter how large the firm, no health promotion consultant has all the answers to your needs in their own shop. Be sure to check their contacts, other providers they’ve worked with, and services they’ve performed for industry associations.

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