One of the biggest challenges facing HR managers when implementing wellbeing programmes is developing a strategy that will be sustainable and engaging on a large scale. Most organizations have a wide demographic of people working in them, so a one size fits all wellbeing solution will always be difficult. Therefore, developing an achievable wellbeing starting point and subsequent wellbeing path is critical to success and buy-in.
A great case study involves Oklahoma mayor Mick Cornett. In 2007, his home city was ranked as one of the fattest cities in the US. Stepping on the scales that day, he realized he was the perfect example of why his city was awarded this infamous accolade. He weighed in at 220 pounds, technically clinically obese according to the standard BMI calculator. As Mick himself said: “I noticed this pattern, that I was gaining about two to three pounds a year, and then every year I would lose about 20 pounds. I had this huge closet, and could only wear about a third of it at the time.”
Mick decided to lead from the front and began to make some changes to his own lifestyle, cutting his own calorie intake from 3000 to 2000 per day and began to lose a pound a week. He eventually lost 42pounds, just in time for his annual state of the city address, where he announced that his city was going on a diet. Mick even set up a website to monitor Oklahoma’s progress.
By using his own success, he challenged his city to lose 1million collective pounds before his next state of the city address the following January.
He also held his hands up and explained that while trying to develop an excellent quality of life around the city, his decisions were negatively impacting Oklahoman’s health. Taking accountability for his own decisions while in office, he began to lead from the front. Mick acknowledged: ‘We had built an incredible quality of life – if you happen to be a car. But if you have to be a person, you are combating the car seemingly at every turn.’
Of the city’s wide streets, Mick added: ‘You would push the button to walk across and you would have to run. Because the city had not required developers to build sidewalks, it had created neighborhoods that had virtually no level of walkability’.
He developed an online platform for each Oklahoman to track their own personal achievements as well as watch how this contributed to the overall goal he set in his state of the city address. Momentum soon caught on and the city’s citizens reached the million pound mark in January 2012, with the mayor appearing on national TV to celebrate with participants who had lost over 100 pounds each.
So when considering the challenges facing your organization, bear in mind the impact one leader can make. Mayor Mick Cornett has continued the momentum the citizens gathered and continued to improve the health infrastructure of the city by adding a new central park, building a downtown streetcar and constructing senior health and wellness centres.
The mayor says that he is also in the process of developing Olympic-quality canoe and kayak facilities on the river that are ‘among the best in the world’. Oklahoma now ranks as one of fittest cities in the United States.
Interestingly, Mayor Cornett also noticed an additional benefit to making the city more fitness friendly. The town is attracting more of the educated twenty-somethings who traditionally moved west, all thanks to the improved lifestyle in the city. “We seem to have turned the cultural shift of making health a greater priority. And we love the idea of the demographics of highly educated twenty-somethings, people with choices, choosing Oklahoma City in large numbers.”
The impact of one leader that gains collective buy-in should never be underestimated.
Now consider how a change agent can work in your organization, in your life, in your home. Change agents come in all forms and sizes e.g. great leaders, community volunteers, using 1% fat milk. Sustaining change requires multiple small steps. Each new step leading to a better quality of life.