REGISTER 11/6: Workplace Wellness that Works – Sneak Peek: From “Getting People to Change” to “Letting People Change”


By: Michigan Wellness Council 


sneak peek

TRAINING – November 6, 2018:
Workplace Wellness That Works

(Day 1 Of Two-Day Conference)

Training Sponsored by  MARSHmclennan


Parts 7 and 8 of a 10-Part Series
(This is Steps 7 and 8, out of 10 Steps, derived from Laura’s book, Workplace Wellness That Works. She will be outlining 10 steps to improve upon how we’re designing and delivering workplace wellness.)

For a deeper dive, join Laura Putnam on November 6th in Troy, MI
for a day-long Workplace Wellness That Works training session
In the meantime, share your thoughts on promoting health and well-being in the workplace!

PART 7 & 8: From “Getting People to Change” to “Letting People Change”

I often hear leaders and wellness professionals ask for products and services that will “get people to change” or will “get people motivated.” Here’s the thing: Nothing will ever “get people to change” or “get people motivated.” Rather, people change themselves. The best you can do is to create the conditions in which people are more likely to motivate themselves.

So, what can we do? We can follow the lead of Yvonne Chounard, founder of Patagonia, who aptly titled his book “Let My People Go Surfing” – as opposed to “Get My People to Go Surfing.”

Here are two ways you can do exactly that, drawn from my book Workplace Wellness that Works, Steps 7 & 8.

1. Create Meaning:

To transition from “get” to “let” – we must move away from our overreliance on incentives and penalties. Currently, the average employee incentive has reached a whopping $742, up from $651 in 2016. It’s gotten so high, in fact, that employees are leaving money on the table, according to a recent study.

What the research overwhelmingly and repeatedly shows is that at best incentives will get people in the door, but they will never keep people there. Moreover, there’s evidence to suggest that incentives may perversely undermine the intrinsic motivation and willingness to sustain a behavior over time.

If the goal is to move beyond incentivizing people to engage in one-time or short-time activities (like filling out an HRA or participating in a challenge) to embarking on a lifelong path of well-being, then we must move beyond incentives. There simply is no short cut when it comes to inspiring behavior change.  Rather, our task is to do the hard work of tapping into intrinsic motivators, developing thoughtful programs that actually create meaning. Because, the truth is, our brains are much more than information processors; they are creators of meaning.

Intrinsic motivation is when the motivation comes from within. These are the things we do because we want to. Here are the keys to unleashing intrinsic motivation:

  • Competency: We all have a deep need to achieve and be recognized for it. You’ll hear it on  any playground: “Look at me, Mom!” Same is true for adults. (OK, maybe they’re not saying quite the same phrase, but the desire is still there.)
  • Autonomy: What’s one of the biggest drivers of stress and one of the biggest diminishers of authentic engagement? Lack of autonomy. The antidote is to give people choices and provide more opportunities for people to have control over their daily work activities. Let them take charge in what they change and how they change. Again, the idea here is to let people – as opposed to get people to….
  • Relatedness: We are hardwired as social beings. If you want engagement to last, give people lots of opportunities to connect with others.
  • Purpose: What’s the deeper meaning behind the program? And, more importantly, what’s “the why” for each individual employee? If you want to create meaning, follow the lead of  Simon Sinek and Start with Why.
  • Play: Finally, every safety announcement has transitioned from serious to playful – even United Airlines! The truth is, if it’s not fun, people won’t engage. So, your task is to help people to engage in their well-being in a way that is playful as opposed to heavy handed. A great resource to tap into is Playworks, an organization that is dedicated to helping kids to play more. They also offer resources for adults. Check out their Playbook – a free resource chalk full of ideas you can use to boost play in the workplace.
  1. Design Nudges and Cues

    The other way to move from “get” to “let” is to focus less on the fish, if you will, and more on the water that surrounds them. Recall the story I shared in our earlier discussion “Step 3: Uncover the Hidden Factors” about the two young fish who asked: “What the hell is water?”

    We are, arguably, we are more Creatures of Culture than we are Creatures of Habit. Meanwhile, I repeatedly see workplace wellness messaging that goes something like this: “Better health begins with taking personal responsibility.” It’s worth asking: Is this really the case? Might the message be better framed as “Better health begins with addressing the larger culture and environment, which in turn enables individuals to make healthier choices.”

    Too many well-intended programs focus too much on individual habit formation – and not enough on the larger environment and culture. As researcher Michael Marmot best put it in an Institute of Medicine report:  “It is unreasonable to expect people to change their behavior when the social, cultural and physical environments around them fully conspire against them.”

    We can do better – and one way that we can do so is by designing nudges and cues.

  • Nudges: Nudges are environmental prompts, make health and well-being easier. These includes things like signage, accessible stairs, subsidized healthy options in the cafeteria, and dedicated spaces for rest and recuperation.

Cues: Cues are cultural prompts, make health and well-being “normal.” These include policies, rituals and regular practices that promote well-being at work.

ABOUT: Laura Putnam is the award-winning author of the #1 Amazon Hot New Release in HR & Personnel Management book, Workplace Wellness That Works, and founder of Motion Infusion, a leading provider of well-being and human performance speaking and training services. Her work has been covered by MSNBC, The New York Times, US News & World Report, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and NPR. Learn more about Laura at her website and follow her on LinkedIn.


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Enjoy your day!
Contact: Rita Patel, Executive Director