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How to Run a Wellness Competition

How to Run a Wellness Competition Propel

Okay, so you have a once a year, on-site biometric screening. All employees take a health risk assessment. Your organization even offers an excellent EAP program. What's next? One of your co-workers comes to you with an idea to run a competition based on healthy activities. It seems like a great idea, but you're not sure how to run a wellness competition.

To run a wellness competition, you'll need to establish the requirements of the competition, define what a successful event will look like, create a top-notch communication strategy, get leadership buy in and find ways to maximize engagement throughout the event.

Careful planning will lead to a successful competition. Follow the steps below before you hold your event!

Choose the Type of Competition

Your very first task when setting up a wellness competition is to decide what type of competition you will run. To begin, choose the participant configuration. Then, decide what kinds of activities will be counted.

Competition Configurations

At Propel, we break our competitions down into three configurations:

Individual Competition: Participants compete on an individual level (every employee for themselves!). These are the best starting place when developing a new competition as they need less adoption to be successful. You might also prefer these competitions when there is an incentive attached.

Team Competition: Participants will form teams that compete against each other. Team competitions are excellent at bringing out the competitiveness in your office. But beware, the smack talk will be flying!

Group Competition: In this configuration, you will segment your population into groups that compete in a competition. Examples of groups include office locations, departments, brands, etc. Use the group configuration to make your competition an event that makes your groups tighter knit.

Activity Selection

What will your competition be based around? A very popular option over the past decade has been around the number of steps your employees take.

However, we believe you need to choose activities that will be engaging and impactful to your population. Consider choosing activities they are interested in. Examples include:

  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Kayaking
  • Yoga
  • Softball
  • Weightlifting
  • Trail Biking

You can configure these in terms of minutes, hours, distance or points (if you want to assign point values to each activity).

Propel can create competitions over hundreds of possible activities, including nutrition and wellness activities like servings of vegetables and hours of community service.

Establish the Requirements

Once you have selected the appropriate configuration, you'll need to establish the requirements for the competition.

Answer some of these questions:

  • How long will this competition run?
  • What are the entry requirements (email submission, sign up form, end of competition entry, etc.)?
  • How will data be captured and by who?
  • How often will data need to be refreshed/submitted?
  • Can the competition be joined mid-way or do all participants need to be registered at the start?
  • Do you have a goal for this competition (i.e. try to average 8,000 steps per day). This is important if you choose to give incentives or awards by someone meeting a goal and not necessarily winning.

Each one of these questions will be crucial to determine before you run a wellness competition. An airtight planning phase ensures a smooth event.

Not interested in dealing with the hassle of spreadsheets? Propel allows you to run and report on an unlimited number of competitions with both self-entry and wearable device tracked activities. You also have access to a live competition leaderboard that all participants can view!

Define Success

In order to successfully run a wellness competition within your organization, your team must establish goals and objectives. Without direction and metrics, it will be impossible to understand your success.

Make a list of the most important aspects of your competition and write down where you hope you'll be when you finish the event. Metrics like employee participation, number of departments/divisions involved, number of activity entries or daily entries per participant, and overall event awareness will be a good starting place.

For more on setting goals and objectives, check out this article.

Create Communication

Market. Your. Program.

Nothing could matter more than good marketing. Even a horribly assembled event will get decent participation if marketed appropriately. When it comes to wellness initatives, marketing tends to be the area we see the least effort in. Unfortunately, it restricts the success of great events and fun competition.

Good marketing will describe the event and requirements succinctly while making certain participants understand what action is required of them. Always provide an action step. We find this gets buy in from the very start and boosts competition engagement for the entire event. Even something as simple as filling out a form can put a little of your employees' skin in the game.

You might also consider branding your event and wellbeing program overall. Here are some helpful branding tips to get you started.

Choose the Method of Communication

Only you know your population. Some groups thrive with physical posters and flyers. Others do better with email. Maybe your office has a newsletter you can feature the event in or multi-purpose televisions that the announcement could be placed on.

Pick the method that works best for your office and stick to it!

Establish Your Cadence

Determine how often you will communicate with your employees. While many organizations are fearful of too many emails, overcommunication in an event context does a lot to preserve engagement. Give your leadership an expectation that these communications are necessary for the event season, but will decrease in the future.

Get Leadership Involved

Top down engagement will make your event far more successful than bottom up engagement. Getting buy in from different departmental leaders will not only persuade more participation in your one competition, but it can give greater exposure to your overall program.

Identify leaders that have an open mind to wellbeing and that have influence over key areas in your organization. Let them know that, if your priority as an organization is to get healthier and more active, a competition with their support will underscore this priority to their employees. It's also good to ask for their ideas and get them involved in helping to plan this event.

Launch the Competition

You're finally ready to launch your competition! This will be an exciting moment so consider creating a kick-off event or announcement. A clear launch will get those who have already registered fired up and alert those who have not registered to the excitement.

If you're allowing late registrations, a launch event is your final big chance at boosting your participants. Make sure the event is themed around your program brand and it does the dual job of raising the excitement level as well as answering any lingering participant questions.

Promote Consistent Engagement

Ok, the competition is underway. Week 1 and 2 are great - people are keeping up with their entries and excitement is high. But then week 3 hits...

You'll likely face the hurdle of drop-off at some point in your competition. Depending how long the event lasts, this could present big problems.

Find ways to engage participants outside of the required activities. Some of our favorite engagement strategies are:

  • Send out weekly newsletters with an updated leaderboard and colleague testimonial.
  • Place a dry-erase board in a common area and frequently update the top 5, 10, or 20 participants.
  • Create a social media account (either internally or externally) that allows colleagues to engage with photos/updates from the event.
  • Shoot video content with leadership sharing how they are participating.
  • Add a "healthy selfie" component to your event where participants can send in selfies of their activities (great for adding an additional award category like "best photo").

These are just a few of the possible engagement strategies to pursue during an event. Be creative and call upon your leaders to help you develop new ideas.

Award the Winners

You have reached the end! Congratulations on completing your wellness competition. Now, it's time to award the winners!

Many organizations choose to use HSA/premium reductions as a method of awarding winners/participants, however there are plenty of alternatives.

Cash and gift card awards are an easy favorite for employees. Company merchandise, apparel and hot gifts will also be a hit.

The awards that mean the most may not necessarily have a monetary value. Plaques, trophies and certificates are sometimes the most prized reward for a victory. If you plan on doing this once or twice a year, consider a revolving trophy. Perhaps you can even etch the winner's name into the base!

Employee recognition also serves as an alternative to a financial award. Use your leadership to help recognize these employees and let them know how they have embodied the organization's values in the competition.

Review Success

Take the final step in successfully running a wellness competition and revisit your goals and objectives.

Give yourself an evaluation based on the metrics you identified before your event. What was done well? What could use improvement?

Make a list of the positives to keep around. The secret to a continuously successful wellness competition is to build off of the last one! No competition will instantly achieve perfection. Find what worked and repeat those things along with remedies to what did not work. Success is a process and, with careful planning, it will continue to be within reach.

Nicholas Layne

About the author

Nicholas Layne

Nicholas is the Director of Strategic Operations at Propel. He is also a Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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