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Tapping into Your Why

How to support employee wellness and business health simultaneously


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I aspired to be like my father. While he worked countless hours each week as a neurosurgeon saving lives, he didn’t prioritize saving his own life. He didn’t prioritize exercise, eating well or managing stress. He died shortly after I graduated from college and this changed my life. This experience helped me realize my purpose in life was to be a catalyst for positive lifestyle change through worksite wellness.  

Although in the early 2000s, this was cutting edge for most companies and employees, now Gen Z and Millennials expect to join a company with a thriving culture. Even Gen X and Baby Boomers want more out of work than just a paycheck.

This, combined generational momentum, is pushing organizations to adapt to focusing on the employee experience. Companies leading the way have already begun to connect people to the mission, curating a culture that authentically embodies their core values and thrives in a nontoxic environment.

Wellbeing programs alone do not work because an employee is more than an expense line on a finance sheet. Genuinely improving the wellbeing of an employee requires leadership, middle management and employees working in tandem. This type of synergy not only helps with productivity but also with retention of your people.   

Prioritizing wellbeing within an organization depends on the willingness of the employer to dig a little deeper. This takes two steps, and one without the other does not work:

1. Tap into the intrinsic why for employees to see what they are capable of and what they are willing to contribute in the long term. If this valuable information is discovered in the recruitment process, thousands of dollars can be saved by selecting talent with values that match the company's. Furthermore, leadership's willingness to listen and respond motivates most existing employees to increase performance. Many times, all people need to know is that someone cares and they belong.

Discovering what matters to employees, allows leaders to really see and support a truly functioning team, which then helps owners and managers positively motivate people by lighting a fire under them.

2. Help employees balance the passions of their hearts and minds with the realistic limitations of their body. Businesses require a slow and steady pace. More is accomplished in the long run if things are done right the first time. When someone is passionate about his or her job, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day push and forget about physical needs.

People need purpose and without that their spirit is not in a state of wellbeing.

Conversely, you can have a purpose, but if your body is not well, you cannot fulfill that purpose with your whole self. The magic is in finding a balance between the two to create overall wellbeing in life. This works on an individual level, but when it's working on a cultural level within an organization, it truly allows all involved to thrive both personally and professionally.   

As we look toward the exit of 2018, so goes the old “cog in the wheel” definition of what a workplace should be. Employees come to expect work environments that support wellness. They want to work where they feel valued and are not just a resource.

We are moving away from the command-and-control era. Today, we are all in this together as growing, interdisciplinary teams working together. Companies are moving to more agile work styles where people with specific skills have to work together to solve problems. 

When you do this and then pair them with other skilled professionals who complement their strengths, they can create innovative solutions that make a difference. It is human nature to step up when inspired and companies can curate this culture for the long term, creating an environment that supports a healthy balance.

Understand the why of your people and you will be able to provide them opportunities to thrive. Foster a more genuine and balanced employee experience workplace where teams are inspired to bring their best selves to work.

It will not only help you recruit and retain top talent it, will provide you a marketplace advantage.   


Colleen Reilly has designed and implemented wellness programs with Fortune 500 companies, including Mayo Clinic, Coors Brewing Company, Boeing, Chipotle, Keurig Green Mountain, Walt Disney Company, Exxon Mobile and Astra Zeneca. She has extensive, hands-on experience in all corporate health and wellbeing arenas, including employee health, productivity, engagement, efficiency and energy management. Reilly is a keynote speaker for numerous wellbeing industry events, and has written for World Congress and Harvard Business Review, among other publications.

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