3 Socially Intelligent Strategies for Planning an Employee* Wellness Experience (Event)

June 27, 2019

 

In this article, I share the socially intelligent strategies we utilized in architecting highly-engaging, highly-participated corporate wellness events over the span of 12 years. This is an unconventional perspective on longly held beliefs and strategies of how to engage in the workplace, and it's backed up by over a decade of practical application and outcomes, as well as science.

 

Let's take a look.

     

1. Set your intention for the experience based on how you want your participants to feel.

 

We're motivated and moved by emotions and feelings. We either move towards or move away from opportunities based on how the individual perception of the opportunity makes us feel. That being the case, in planning for the experience, ask yourself this question, first:

 

"How do we want our participants to feel throughout this experience?"

 

An individual's feelings towards the intended experience will be a key driver for their perception of the experience. Does your positioning of the experience promote a sense of competition or a sense of connectedness and esprit-de-corps? Ensure the language you use in promoting the experience mirrors what you wish your future participants to feel.

 

Let's stop for a second. It's important to differentiate between the "experience" and the specific event/tactic deployed in the experience.

 

Your intention, your focus, first, is on the experience. The tactic, be it a company 5K, an obstacle event, triathlon, whatever, is second to the experience you wish to provide. These experiences are first and foremost wonderful opportunities for building social connection across a diverse audience within an organization. That's powerful (and really hard to do). As well, the experience is opportunity for significant positive personal change.

 

To help, if interested, here's a construct for architecting/promoting/leading/and celebrating the experience. It comes from the field of Positive Psychology and was one of the foundational element for the creating experiences my teams provided over the years:

 

PERMA-H. This is an acronym for:


Positive Emotions: Your focus is in providing an experience that evokes positive emotions in everyone throughout every.single.aspect of the experience.

 

Engagement: This experience must generate an opportunity for engagement for EVERYONE. Even if the extent of someone's engagement is their contemplation to participate. (Hint: that IS participation)


Relationships: Specifically, building new and nurturing existing relationships. This is a massive, massive opportunity for expanding the impact of your experience beyond the event itself. It shapes the human experience within the workplace.


Meaning and Purpose: Make it meaningful and purposeful (See #3). Meaning and purpose is the motivation of greatness.

 

Achievement: Not egoic (competitive) achievement, yet have your people feeling accomplished in the end. Whether that's the completion of a goal, the making of a new friend, or contribution to social impact (or shifting a perception/belief of self), all of it's achievement.

 

Health: Be it physical health, emotional health, or social health, your experience can have a positive effect on all three. Account for each, equally. 

 

 

Use PERMA-H as your guide and you'll dramatically increase the likelihood of your intention coming to fruition.     

 

 

2. Expand the perception of participation.

 

Participation is typically viewed with a narrow lens. More often than not, only the "active participants" are counted (and perceived) as actual participants within the experience.

 

There's a massive, more passive audience of participants just waiting to be involved, included, and accounted for in your wellness experience/event. This means recognizing how you market it, socialize it, organize it, and the breadth and depth of inclusion opportunities within it are intended for EVERYONE in the company.

 

Everyone.

 

The goal isn't competition. The goal is a connection. To each other, to the organization. The intention is to have every single human in your organization feel part of something bigger-than-self.

 

 

3. Anchor your event to something bigger-than-self.

 

This is complex, as there are multiple parts to it.

 

Part 1: Anchor your experience/event to a socially responsible cause. Anchoring a cause to the experience creates more opportunities for more of your people to get involved. Participation now expands well beyond running, climbing over walls, or wearing lycra in front of your co-friends.

 

Anchoring to a cause adds fundraising, volunteering, voluncheering, and leveraging skill-sets and personal passions to expand inclusion that can provide pre-post engagment for the actual event. It deepens the meaning and purpose of what you're doing and why you're doing it.

 

Anchoring your event to a cause is amplified when the two are aligned. For example, if your wellness event is focused on getting a group of people moving, partnering with a charity organization that has a similar mission but for an underserved audience can add a ton of purpose to the event.

 

For example, if your event is a company 5K, partner with an organization like KIDS in the GAME which helps underserved kids play sports. Turn the experience into a "fund-racing" event. The more meaningful you make it, the more impact you'll make.

 

Remember, it's all about the feeling intention. 
 
Part 2: Making it "bigger-than-self" doesn't require incentives and rewards. Simply put: Consider not using them.

 

Why? Rewards are extrinsic motivations that encourage participation for the sole intention of receiving the reward–not for the opportunity of the experience.

 

I deeply believe that the feeling, first mindset set the trajectory for the level of impact we made over the years. It was NEVER about incentives. NEVER about rewards. It was ALWAYS about the opportunity to provide and be part of positive experiences and grow one's self and network. 

 

Incentives and rewards provide little "after-the-fact" value. The reward is the opportunity to connect, to have a positive experience in the workplace, to build social connection, to PERMA-H, period.

 

The more you focus on the experience and how you want your participants to feel, the more care you'll put into it, and the more people will recognize it, reciprocate it, and feel accounted for because of it.

 

Give the gift of social connection. The "after-the-fact" value of that is off-the-charts. 

 

–––––––––––––––––––

 

Listen, this isn't easy. And so many of you that have the responsibility of putting these experiences together are doing so as a "part-time" responsibility.

 

Not to be discouraged: That's the beauty of these three socially intelligent strategies–they're less about DOING and more about BEING.

 

When we account for this, there's a beautiful congruency that emerges. With that comes an energy that connects, builds trust, motivates confidence, and moves people forward.

 

When the specific experience is over, celebrate it. Memorialize it. Have a plan to share the overall and individual experiences throughout the organization. Integrate the experience in meetings. In conversations with clients. Highlight the experience in company newsletters, in hiring conversations, as a conversation starter, and as a leadership point of pride.

 

The more recursive the experience after-the-fact, the greater the possibility for continued experiences of social states of togetherness, day-to-day.

 

Let me repeat that:

 

The more recursive the experience after-the-fact, the greater the possibility for continued experiences of social states of togetherness, day-to-day.

 

The absolute worst thing that can happen is that when it's over, those connections made fizzle out, or, the connection is interrupted by the return of a habitual state of workplace "survival." 

 

The absolute best thing that can happen is the witnessing of PERMA-H being actively accounted for in other parts of the organization. Just thinking this thought elevates me. Imagine working at a company where everyone was measured on the amount of PERMA-H they generated for others. Another topic I refer to "Character Currency," which I'll save for another day.

 

 

 

Final Thought

 

What if the intention of feeling was felt throughout an overall company culture?

 

What if it became the culture? 

 

It can happen.

 

*We're humans, not employees. When we focus our attention (and intention) on creating experiences that increase human thriving, we help ourselves and everyone around us to human, better.

 

If you'd like to see an example of this in action, give this a watch.

 

 

 

Arch

 

 

Arch Fuston, CPC

 

I share my experience, knowledge, and gifts as a personal leadership coach and speaker, specializing in helping individuals and organization "human, better." As a long-time corporate wellness director/architect, my teams and I created an award-winning, heart-endearing human engagement program for a large, global public company that engaged and enriched thousands.

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