Recognition. It’s magic.

Wellness programs that help employees to lose weight, quit smoking and get healthier have been largely viewed as a valiant thing to do, but are often seen as a fringe benefit that has a questionable return on the investment. Let me suggest a program that has almost no cost. It will help your employees, as well as your company, become healthier and more effective, excellent in what they are doing.

What’s in it for the company?

Wellness programs are rightly promoted as a way to bring down the costs of an unhealthy workforce and improve their productivity. A healthier workforce has a lower cost for healthcare, a lower rate of absenteeism and a higher rate of productivity, with less illness and malaise. This is true, but I’m going to sell the following wellness program as a low cost way to not only attain those benefits, but also improve morale and develop company-oriented spirit. While you are developing more sophisticated company wellness and health programs, don’t overlook this simple and low-cost element.

A voluntary program of recognition for weight loss and weight control achievement.

I lost 140 pounds 30 years ago, and I still get a regular dose of praise and pride when old friends see me, amazed by what I did, complimenting me effusively. It gives me a real high, even today, and it’s been happening for 30 years! One of the biggest pleasures my clients enjoy with their weight loss success is when people start noticing. It brings them immense joy, and motivates them to seek even more success. Good managers know that personal recognition and the sense of importance in their company is a much more powerful reward and incentive than salary and bonuses. A sense of belonging and recognition for personal achievement goes a lot farther than money alone in creating employee loyalty, commitment to mission and motivation.

Here’s a way you can help your employees get healthier and form a better relationship with the company, and you don’t even have to know anything about weight loss, or provide any additional weight loss assistance unless you want to!

Set up an ongoing program of recognition for weight loss and sustained weight loss.

Have one of your staff manage the program, perhaps the person who does your company newsletter, and start by announcing the program, and asking for employees who lose weight to come forward to so-and-so, the program manager, when they have. When they do, they will be recognized in the newsletter for their achievement, congratulated, and perhaps some words of wisdom can be shared in the newsletter.

This will not only be a source of pride for the person who has lost the weight, but it will be an example of success for others in the company to see and follow. It will be a powerful help to the rest of your employees and a validation of the leadership and beneficence the successful person can take pride in.

We know, from studies of people who have been successful with permanent weight loss, that one of the things that most helped them and gave them hope, was seeing others who lost weight. It inspired them to believe it could be done. It gave them hope and a leader to follow.

The simpler this program is, the better. Don’t follow-up with them. Don’t weigh them. Don’t try to tell them what to do. Let the employees come forward with what they want to say and leave them their privacy. If you have other wellness programs, keep them separate. If you don’t currently have other wellness programs, that’s OK. This is an excellent stand-alone program. Like I said, the simpler, the better. Don’t put pressure on anyone to have to report or perform. Keep it strictly voluntary and participant-initiated.

The program manager will simply be available to be contacted, keep records of what is reported, and report the successes in the newsletters. The participants already have their weight recorded routinely at their regular doctor visits, and anyone reporting a significant weight loss, or a significant time maintaining, should be asked to provide a note from their doctor confirming the facts, to be kept in the program file, just so everyone is confident in the legitimacy of the program.

Every edition of the newsletter should have a little article explaining the program and asking people to contact so-and-so if they have any weight loss success to report. It may take a while to get going, but eventually, someone is going to have a weight loss that is getting recognized and talked about. People want to know how, and they like to talk about it. When people start to come forward, their stories can be as simple or as detailed for the newsletter as the people involved desire.

Every single employee as well as the company will benefit.

This program tells everyone in the company that people and their health are important to the company, not just profit. It says you care. It will do more to lead people to weight control than lectures about obesity, nutrition and exercise. It will attract more overweight employees than classes and gym memberships. And it costs less too!

I encourage you to offer wellness classes and gym memberships. I know that they are of immense benefit to the company and to those who take advantage of them; but this program will touch more lives intimately, especially those that need it the most, and it costs next to nothing!

If you want some ideas on what else you can do that makes sense and costs very little, I’ve got some ideas, but start with this program, which can stand on its own.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He was an obese heavy smoker and workaholic until his early thirties, and burned out, but survived and changed direction. He changed in many ways, among them, losing 140 pounds permanently. Health, in a holistic way, is now his mission. He is the author of The Anderson Method of Permanent Weight Loss.

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