Winning Executive Buy-In for Wellness With Isaac Lumley

  • When your employees don’t feel supported, retention rates increase and innovation stagnates. Wellness initiatives are a powerful way to improve your team’s well-being and bolster your bottom line. 

  • Isaac Lumley, Department Head of People Operations at Quility, says that the most successful wellness programs address two key factors: They’re tailored to a company’s unique needs, and they have the support of executives. 

  • On an episode of the Virtual Vibe podcast, Isaac shares his approach to creating a well-being strategy that aligns with executive expectations and employee needs. 

How much does it cost to replace an employee? 

According to Gallup, the price tag can range from half to two times their annual salary. That means that replacing an employee who earns $80,000 a year can cost between $40,000 and $160,000 — and who knows how long their replacement will stay?  

When Isaac Lumley wants to gather executive support for a well-being program, he leads with stats like this. “My personal advice is to show the ways that well-being, health and security play into cost-saving metrics like retention,” he explains. 

Isaac’s advice isn’t just a hunch, it’s backed, time and time again, by the numbers. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Winning With Wellness Report, Johnson & Johnson’s wellness program estimated an ROI of $3.92 for every dollar spent on wellness over a 6-year period. HR consulting firm Mercer discovered that companies offering the most well-being practices experience 11% less turnover than those with fewer options. 

As the Department Head of People Operations at Quility, Isaac knows he must speak to metrics, particularly when discussing with executives, but his efforts don’t stop there. He believes that the best wellness programs are crafted in collaboration with employees from around the business and supported by leaders at every level, not just the top. “Culture isn’t one person,” he says. “It’s got to be everybody.”

On an episode of the Virtual Vibe podcast, Isaac walked me through his approach to cultivating a culture of wellness at every level of the organization. 

Winning Executive Buy-In

At Quility, an insurance company, well-being is a core value. “It’s been integral to the company culture since its inception,” Isaac explains. Quility co-founder Meredith Ellison plays a key role in driving wellness throughout the entire organization, from corporate staff to front-line agents. 

Not every company is lucky enough to have a leader who understands the value of wellness, though.
If you need to pitch a well-being program to your executive team, Isaac recommends taking a tailored approach. “Know what’s important to that person, what’s important to their role,” he suggests. For instance, the senior director of human resources will have different priorities than the CFO. 

Especially when he’s pitching someone who cares about numbers, Isaac researches his argument thoroughly. Though it can be hard to put a number on well-being, he looks for stats like how much it costs to hire someone versus developing an existing employee. He also comes prepared to discuss how he plans to measure success. 

Targeting the Right Tactics For Your Team

Just as he recommends tailoring your approach to different executives, Isaac also suggests tailoring wellness programming to your company’s specific culture and needs. 

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer,” he says. You have to adapt your approach to suit your company’s size, culture and working model. 

At Quility, Isaac’s team often leans into the company’s competitive culture by offering challenges, complete with leaderboards and prizes. The team also looks for opportunities to foster innovation by helping employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and being vulnerable with one another. 

Wellness programming at Quility also accounts for the company’s hybrid working model — employees work across 38 states, including at two offices. 

When his team launched a series of physical fitness challenges using
Bright Breaks, they made sessions available on demand so employees could join at their convenience. They also ensured everyone had options to participate regardless of their physical abilities. 

Isaac’s team has used plenty of other wellness tactics, including:

  • Offering an extra day of PTO as a prize to motivate employees to join challenges

  • Awarding extra points for joining classes with a colleague to facilitate connections among people who might not otherwise meet 

  • Gathering department heads together to discuss their mistakes and share lessons learned to foster a culture of openness and vulnerability

  • Providing budgets for quarterly meetups to ensure that everyone feels like part of the team

Here’s How Your Team Is Part of Your Toolbox

Isaac’s wellness toolbox includes Microsoft Teams and Bright Breaks, but he describes his most valuable tool as “the support of incredible team members.” He and his HR teammates rely heavily on colleagues from across the business — here are three ways that other teams help to make the wellness programs successful.

1. Prioritizing wellness from the top down

One of the reasons Isaac is so diligent about executive buy-in is that he knows how important it is for leadership to be engaged in well-being. 

“A company will not exist without the people in it,” Isaac says.
Leaders need to help take care of and develop their employees to retain them. By taking part in wellness programming and encouraging their teams to participate as well, leaders demonstrate that wellness is a company priority. 

2. Providing ideas and inspiration

When planning a new well-being initiative, Isaac often looks to successful teams within his organization for inspiration. 

He suggests looking for a team that has low turnover. “Find out what they’re doing differently and then try and capture that,” he says.
“Why are they doing well? Can it be replicated? Would it work for other teams? Do they have interest in training new managers?” 

His team also views other colleagues as an essential component of the planning process. 

While Quility doesn’t have a formal well-being committee, Isaac believes that you have to involve employees from across the business to create well-being programs that truly help people. “Open it up a little bit more,” he says. “Get more feedback. Bounce your ideas off of people.” 

3. Championing wellness initiatives

Isaac also likes to engage employees as ambassadors for Quility’s well-being programs. For example, he says, “A year ago, I basically took the most active person in each department and asked them if they were interested in being a Bright Breaks ambassador.” 

Instead of Isaac suggesting to each department that they try out Bright Breaks, a member of the team told their colleagues that they were planning to take part in a break and invited them to join in. 

It’s a more organic way to drive participation in wellness programs — and creates an avenue for more collaboration between employees and HR.
“We had a lot of really cool things come out of that,” Isaac says, citing that people began sharing everything from ideas for new programs to memes. 

At Quility, culture is a team effort, and everyone is empowered to take part. Isaac is proud to work with all of his colleagues to create programs that drive growth, reduce turnover and make everyone feel like they belong. 

This article is based on an episode of the Virtual Vibe podcast by Bright Breaks, the platform that boosts workplace wellness seven minutes at a time. Want more insights on HR strategies for a happy, healthy and connected workforce in a work-from-home world? Subscribe to the Virtual Vibe podcast, and tune in wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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