by Trina Laube, CWP

This is the fifth article in a six-part series on the role of competencies in wellness promotion.

When it comes to wellness, communication is key. Whether supporting the well-being of individuals, working to build a culture of wellness in a workplace or community, or engaging stakeholders in a wellness strategy, professionals must “use meaningful and inclusive communication methods and technologies to support, manage, and promote wellness initiatives.”

This is one of six core competencies within the “Communication & Connection” domain of the National Wellness Institute Wellness Promotion Competency Model. The 27 competencies within the five domains of this model assist wellness professionals and those who hire, train, and certify wellness practitioners in understanding the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that support professionals’ ability to assist and engage diverse groups of individuals in maintaining and enhancing wellness and to build inclusive cultures of well-being for all.

Professionals who are competent in the “Communication & Connection” domain establish collaborative and interdisciplinary teams to promote sustainable wellness practices that meet long-term individual, organizational, and/or community goals. These “WELL Leaders” recognize the influence of organizational development, leadership, and culture on individual wellness and:

  • Do (lead by example);
  • Speak (about well-being with their team members); and
  • Create (simple team-based rituals that help to enhance quality of life for their team members).

Transformative leaders, a supportive culture, and good communication are major drivers of engagement in wellness initiatives. Thus, it is imperative that wellness practitioners (particularly those influencing wellness in workplaces or communities) have the knowledge and skills to articulate to key stakeholders the value of wellness for individuals and how it supports the organization’s or community’s mission, purpose, and strategic goals. Within organizations, it is essential to also understand the C-suite’s role in well-being.

Additionally, the most successful wellness professionals utilize quantitative and qualitative feedback to continually evaluate the quality and effectiveness of initiatives. They use data and logic models to support wellness initiatives and to communicate key findings to stakeholders. Regular communication lets stakeholders know if short-term objectives are being achieved or if adjustments are needed to ensure a greater or more sustainable impact. In addition, getting the right stakeholders to collaborate and remain deeply engaged is key to realizing positive and sustainable change. When welcomed as active and essential participants in the process, internal and external stakeholders develop a sense of ownership in the initiative and its outcomes, and their support and advocacy strengthens.

Coupling this stakeholder support with a comprehensive communication strategy may reduce the need for significant incentives, increase resources, and lead to enhanced outcomes. A comprehensive communication strategy can also help focus the message on the intended audience using the most effective channels and technologies and can raise awareness about an initiative. When developing a communication strategy for an individual or a group, it can be helpful to reflect on these four questions:

  1. WHY do I want to communicate? (Be clear about the purpose/goal of the communication.)
  2. WHO am I communicating with? (Understand the audience and use inclusive communication methods.)
  3. WHAT will I communicate? (Identify the core message.)
  4. HOW do I want to communicate? (Determine the best communication channels for the message and recipients.)

Much like wellness, the most effective communication requires an inclusive and personalized approach that recognizes the whole person and recognizes there is no universal method for all people and all situations. It requires life-long learning and practice. Pat McMillan, author of The Performance Factor: Unlocking the Secrets of Teamwork notes that “excellent communication doesn’t just happen naturally. It is a product of process, skill, climate, relationship, and hard work.” In other words, wellness practitioners must continually work to develop the competencies within the “Communication and Connection” domain of the NWI Wellness Promotion Competency Model to realize the best outcomes.