How to provide wellbeing champions with the support they need to thrive in their role, and create healthier, happier workplaces

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Understanding the comprehensive training and support necessary for wellbeing champions to thrive is crucial. Drawing from experience training thousands of champions and upskilling mental health first aiders across various industries, including multinational corporations, public sector organisations, schools, and the NHS, this article shares insights to ensure wellbeing champions receive the support they need to positively impact employee wellbeing.

What are wellbeing champions?

The role of a wellbeing champion varies depending on the organisation and the needs of their peers. They might range from being a friendly face in the office to a key player in organising company-wide wellbeing initiatives. Typically, they:

  • Listen to colleagues.
  • Influence and support a culture of wellbeing.
  • Employ inclusive approaches to make wellbeing appealing.
  • Support managers in integrating wellbeing into their teams’ workdays and personal lives.
  • Make integrating wellbeing into workdays fun.
  • Signpost internal and external wellbeing opportunities.
  • Organise challenges, campaigns, initiatives, and events.
  • Collaborate with HR and Wellbeing Leads to align with organisational wellbeing strategies.

Wellbeing champions are not expected to be the sportiest employees, take on medical roles, act as personal trainers/nutritionists, or assume HR responsibilities.

Setting up wellbeing champions for success: A step-by-step guide

To support champions effectively, we tailor our approach to match the unique needs of the organisations we work with. Here are the steps we’ve found most effective:

Step One: Setting the Foundations for Success

Leader Buy-In: Wellbeing initiatives need support from senior leaders to be effective. Communicate the value of wellbeing programs to senior leaders using evidence-based arguments and real-world examples. Studies show a clear link between investment in workplace wellbeing and reduced absenteeism, lower healthcare costs, and enhanced employee engagement and retention. Endorsement from senior leadership legitimises the efforts of wellbeing champions and fosters a culture where employee health is prioritised.

Wellbeing Awareness Campaign: Raise awareness so all staff understand what wellbeing means within the organisation and why their wellbeing is supported. Highlight that a wellbeing needs analysis will be conducted and new initiatives will be based on these unique needs. Ensure all staff know who the wellbeing champions are going to be, why they are chosen, and how to contact them. Communicate through various channels and remind staff regularly throughout the year.

Wellbeing Needs Analysis: Understand employees’ wellbeing needs, covering areas like stress, anxiety, resilience, peer support, manager support, physical activity, sleep, nutrition, and other aspects such as financial wellbeing. Analyse how confident staff are in supporting their wellbeing and their sense of psychological safety. Use surveys, focus groups, interviews, and existing data to shape a wellbeing strategy, the wellbeing champions’ roles, and provide a baseline to measure impact. For complex organisations, break down data by job role and location for more relevant support.

Appointing Champions: Attract the right staff members to become wellbeing champions and ensure they have the time to perform this role. Handpick individuals or open the opportunity to all staff. Provide a voluntary job description outlining the activities and time commitments involved.

Step Two: Training the Champions

We have conducted hundreds of training sessions for wellbeing champions across multiple sectors, tailoring the sessions to each context. In all cases, we have found it most beneficial when the training covers:

  • What a wellbeing champion is within the organisation.
  • An overview of all areas of workplace wellbeing (e.g. stress and anxiety, sleep, nutrition, resilience, physical activity, nutrition and more).
  • Existing wellbeing provisions in the organisation.
  • Understanding colleagues’ unique wellbeing needs.
  • How to have 1:1 conversations about wellbeing.
  • Practical tools to encourage and enable wellbeing.
  • Action plan development.

Step Three: Champions Begin Their Roles

Once trained, wellbeing champions can start supporting their peers. If multiple champions work within the same division/site, they should cooperate and align with HR or Wellbeing Leads to ensure consistency with the wellbeing strategy based on staff needs.

Step Four: Ensuring Sustained Impact

Facilitated Catch-Ups: After a few months, organise catch-ups, facilitated by a workplace wellbeing expert, to understand champions’ successes and areas needing improvement. These sessions, held bi-monthly or at least quarterly, provide a safe space for champions to learn from their peers, ask questions and share experiences. 

These catch-ups also identify untrained champions and highlight the need for comprehensive training before starting initiatives. At one global organisation we found that several attendees to the catchup sessions had not attended the wellbeing champion training, but were calling themselves champions – which was problematic as they were not following best practice approaches or working inline with the organisations’ wellbeing strategy. 

Step Five: Measuring Impact

Regular full staff wellbeing needs analyses, as well as capturing pulse wellbeing data and evaluating metrics such as eNPS scores, allow for comparison with the initial baseline, providing clarity on the impact of wellbeing initiatives. Gathering feedback from staff about the wellbeing champions’ efforts and asking champions about their roles is also essential to measure the specific impact of wellbeing champions.

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Conclusion

At Rener Wellbeing, we believe that with the right training and support, wellbeing champions can become pivotal agents of change with regards to employee wellbeing. By equipping them with a holistic understanding of wellbeing, practical role-specific knowledge, and ensuring senior leadership support, they become empowered to create healthier, happier workplaces. For example, at Intertrust Group (part of CSC), the efforts of over 70 champions globally have significantly improved eNPS scores and other wellbeing metrics across all sites.

About the author:

Khalil Rener is the Director at Rener Wellbeing. He has a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport Management with Distinction from Loughborough University, where he focused his research on workplace wellbeing. He has over 10 years of experience coaching, consulting and in sustainable development with the likes of Leicester Tigers rugby club, Gartner, Oxford International and Loughborough University.

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