In August 2013, the Y of Central Maryland made a commitment to their 2000+ employees by funding a full-time HR & Wellness Manager position. For an organization dedicated to developing the full potential of every individual through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body, the Y realized that in order for their employees to help every individual reach their fullest potential, the employees had to reach their fullest potential first. For an organization that operates 12 Family Center Y's, 6 preschools, Before and After School Enrichment programming and summer camps in 5 counties across Central Maryland and Baltimore City as well as Head Start Programming in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, one thing was clear - an innovative approach would be required. Over the past year Diana has served as a charismatic leader that has worked tirelessly to create a program that employees not only believe in, but participate in. She has become the face of wellness for Y employees.
Diana J. Beeson
Diana graduated with her Masters in Community Health Education in 2013 and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. She finished the 18 week Wellcoaches Core Coach Certification Program and plans to complete the requirements to become a Certified Health and Wellness Coach by December 2014. In July 2014, Diana received the Innovation Award at the Y of Central Maryland Leadership Management Team Retreat. Recipients were nominated by peers and leaders across the organization. This formal recognition speaks volumes to the high level of respect Diana earned in making wellness a priority. She has achieved WELCOA Faculty status.
Once hired by the Y as the HR & Wellness Manager in August 2013, Diana set out to understand the employees. An understanding of the culture is critical to the success of a program. Through an employee interest survey, she reached out directly to employees to determine what they would like to see from their wellness program. 144 total employees completed the requirements to receive the incentive in 2014 – which equaled $2,120 wellness dollars per pay period being distributed to employees toward the cost of their medical insurance in 2014.
The Y of Central Maryland runs health and wellness centers and operates before and afterschool enrichment, preschool, head start and camp programming across 5 Maryland counties and Baltimore City. Diana understood identifying champions at as many locations as possible would be crucial. Our cohesive Wellness Champion team is 20 members strong and growing. The CEO, John Hoey, sends each new Champion a formal appointment letter. Wellness Champions meet quarterly and review data to make informed decisions about future wellness programming.
The interest survey along with health risk assessment data drove programmatic offerings for employees in year one. Various activities were scheduled throughout the year and included a walking day challenge, staff hikes, lunch and learns, wellness week and a staff triathlon. Wellness Week included wellness fairs at 6 different family center Y’s that offered screenings, health information and if needed referrals for employees. The Staff Triathlon brought 10 teams of 3 together to compete for fun in the name of wellness. Whenever possible, employee ideas are integrated into programming. A weekly “Wednesday Wellness” newsletter highlights current programmatic offerings as well as relevant health related information. Policies and programs are always under review and a healthy meeting policy is being considered.
The Y received the American Heart Association Fit Friendly Worksite – Gold level award in April 2014. As a Fit Friendly Worksite, we were invited to participate in the National Walking Day Challenge on April 2nd, 2014. The invitation to participate was extended to all of our locations. The goal was simple – pass one pedometer between team members and whichever location got the most steps throughout the course of the day between 8 and 5 was the winner. Over 25 Fit Friendly Work Sites participated and at least 10 of those locations were Y sites. The Perry Hall Family Center Y won the overall challenge with a total step count of 68,427 steps.
This first official year of the Y’s employee wellness program, Live Well, Work Well…Be Well! has been about culture. Understanding the culture and meeting employees where they are in their own wellness journeys, helping them to make goals and ultimately helping them to reach their goals. There has been a shift. Dialogue is changing. Wellness is not only something we offer to our members but is something that we have made a priority for our employees.
With a passion for group exercise, Diana has continued to teach group exercise classes for members of the Y in addition to her role with employee wellness. Her classes are at 5:45 a.m. so she has extended an invitation to employees and has seen an increase in employee participation.
Diana was selected to participate in the 5th cohort of the Y of Central Maryland’s Becoming an Extraordinary Executive Leadership Program. The program is designed to provide opportunities for participants to learn the keys to leadership success, explore strengths and weaknesses, collaborate with colleagues and develop an action plan to discover a personal leadership path. The leadership program has allowed Diana to focus on the Social, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual areas of her own well-being. Diana consistently evaluates her own well-being and firmly believes that only when you know where you are can you truly help others identify where they are and help them get to where they want to go.
With an organization of this size and being a department of one, to truly be the face of Employee Wellness, Diana spent a significant amount of time on the ground for site visits and to get to know employees. The face to face interaction was invaluable in helping the program build momentum. Time spent building relationships resulted in a high level of trust.
For the first time ever, under the direction of Diana as the HR & Wellness Manager, employees had the opportunity to complete requirements and earn incentives towards the cost of their medical benefits in the process. This was an innovative move organizationally that demonstrated senior leadership support of wellness and increased participation in programming. Employees realized that the organization was invested in their well-being in addition to caring about the well-being of our members, communities and the populations we serve.
With changes to laws surrounding health care, wellness professionals are positioned to make a difference in the way business is done. Traditional definitions and perceptions of wellness are the biggest threats to the industry itself. I see a shift from wellness, which many equate with physical activity and nutrition, to well-being, which is all encompassing. While physical activity and nutrition provide pieces, we must look at the puzzle in its entirety. Despite leaders in the industry knowing this, we have the tremendous opportunity to take this message and mainstream it. Well-being involves going beneath the surface and looking deeper into a person as a whole.
Over the next five years, wellness professionals will have the responsibility to stretch beyond their own comfort zones. We must wrap our minds around the idea of well-being and become comfortable with challenging norms, being challenged then standing up to defend our field.