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How can a “smackdown” improve a company’s culture? – Part 1

June 6, 2011

In some ways I’m kind of your stereotypical CFO and accountant… conservative and cheap.  During one of our wellness committee meetings this January, the group was discussing how to better engage our employees in wellness activities.  Once the ideas started turning towards things like ‘we can engage some consultants’ (cha-ching) and ‘if we gave every Associate xx dollars to complete a PHA (personal health assessment) maybe we’d get better data’ (cha-ching) I figured there had to be a simple, more effective (code for cheaper) way to help wellness become part of EWI’s culture.

Rewind eight months and Randy Dull (a engineering team leader) challenging our Associates to bike to work in order to beat a “bunch of attorneys” in the annual Bike-To-Work Challenge here in Columbus.  We won (actually stomped them)!  Funny thing was there wasn’t really a prize (on our own we framed a picture we took of the riders) or even much recognition outside our four walls.  But the competition brought out a lot of friendly banter amongst our Associates goading each other to ride their bike to work. 

Now back to January… After the wellness committee meeting broke up, I went to lunch with our accounting manager, Angi Cox, and told her my basic idea: have a wellness competition within EWI. 

First it had to be inclusive… Associates would come up with their own goals.  Second, it had to be balanced… We allowed for three goals in the categories of exercise, nutrition, health, and wellness.  Third, it had provide a framework to further engage Associates in wellness activities EWI feels are important (health fairs, completing a PHA, etc.).  Fourth, it needed to reward health results and improvement.  Fifth (and most important), it had to be FUN. 

The EWI WellnessSmackdown was born.

At night for the remainder of that week, I put together the rules, points system, teams, PowerPoint® presentation, and rolled it out (great thing about EWI you can kick something like this off in a matter of weeks).  After a few hiccups (e.g. “I’ve got a great idea… let’s go ahead and self administer a blood glucose test”), the 13 week competition was rolling with over 50 of our 130 Associates participating.

Some very cool stuff happened during the competition that I’ll tell you about next week.