Representing C-Level and Sea-Level

low-income-wellness-teamYesterday, you were reminded to not overlook potential wellness team members because of their health.

(Of course, if you really want to overlook somebody who is a superb strategic thinker just because he could stand to lose thirty pounds, be my guest. You’ll just miss out on a great asset who might just give you a critical dose of “yes, but” when you try to dive headfirst into a wellness initiative indifferent to the currently unhealthy.)

You’ll recall that I said there were two effects to the following quote from The Ape in the Corner Office:

…because people with less power typically see the world more clearly than do their bosses. The logic of this is straightforward. While powerful people are paying attention to the potential rewards, disempowered people are paying attention to the likely costs. (p. 113, hardcover edition)

The second effect this has for your wellness team:

You must know how employees with limited means live.

The lowest earners among you are vitally important to the success of your company. They’re also vitally important to the success of any wellness program your company might launch. Why? 

They have the least available money to put toward quality food and exercise equipment / gym memberships. They have the tightest spending belts. They’re probably the ones that can barely afford medical insurance — if they can afford it at all.

These are the people who have to feed a family of four on a couple hundred bucks a month. They can’t easily go out and find a pastured cow, buy a share of it, and store it in a freshly-purchased chest freezer.

And they’re also among the most likely to believe that senior management doesn’t listen to, or doesn’t care about, them. (This becomes more evident as the company grows in size. I’m looking at you, Walmart.)

That is why you absolutely, unequivocally, must bring people into the fold who aren’t high on the company pay scale.

It’s not just because lower-income Americans are more likely to be obese. It’s not just because they’re more likely to forgo necessary medical treatments due to the costs (pdf).

It’s because they bring the same sort of “yes, but” problem-finding skills as someone in poorer health, but for issues regarding budget and time commitments.

Similarly, they lend credence to your initiatives because people lower on the company ladder see their voices being included in the discussion.

If a committee of middle managers and/or senior executives create a program, how likely is it that the lowest earners in the company take it seriously?

Even if the committee distributes an employee survey to figure out what they want to see, the promise of low-ranking employees’ voices being in the discussion about program creation isn’t ensured. By having front-line employees as part of the wellness team, you have an immediate inlet for lower-tier employees’ suggestions, comments, and concerns.

They don’t have to worry about surveys or outright suggestions being ignored.

They don’t have to worry as much about how the initiatives are catered to the full employee base.

You don’t have to worry about alienating front-liners with initiatives that impose a daunting challenge for low earners (which hurts your participation numbers).

It’s a win-win situation.

So go out there and find some people who, though they don’t earn the big bucks, have a strong desire to make wellness work.

Have you had success with a wellness team that includes low earners? Share your experiences below.

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