Ask Your Employees What THEY Want

By Len Garrison
Director of Health & Wellness
Jackson Healthcare

One reason why some corporate wellness initiatives may struggle to get good participation is that their well-intentioned wellness programs may not be meeting the specific needs and wants of their employees. Another problem is that many wellness programs are not achieving demonstrative long-term and life-transforming change in the few people who do participate. After all, what are wellness initiatives if they are not truly causing positive change to our people?

At Jackson Healthcare, a staffing company for healthcare professionals based in metropolitan Atlanta, we started our corporate wellness program for our 2,500 employees by first surveying our people and asking them, “What are your terms of engagement?” In other words, what kinds of programs and initiatives would YOU be interested in participating in? This really helped us plan a program that we knew would get good results.

Our people asked for a program that was practical and doable, one that met them on their terms. I put together a program that anyone can do at any level −  the 5 on 5 & Team Transformation Challenge based on a book I authored titled 5 on 5: The Most Doable Wellness Plan on the Planet. Over three 10-week challenge periods in the fall, spring and summer, 72 individuals and 12 teams of five people competed to lose weight and body fat percentage by doing the following for five days a week: 

  • Only eating in the five food categories of water, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein.
  • Being physically active for 20 minutes, whether it was via a cardio workout, a fun sport like tennis or a movement meditation like yoga. This could include anything that involves moving the body, even a Zumba class.

On the other two days, they could eat whatever they wanted and rest. Awards, such as gym memberships, training sessions and massages, were given to individuals and teams who scored the highest in body fat loss. But what we saw was that the real motivation came from within. The 10-week challenge gave them a realistic, doable way to get positive results, improve self-confidence and feel better about how they looked and felt. Those who participated on teams had fun supporting each other and competing against their colleagues.

Not only did we get astounding results, our employees really enjoyed the activity and were successful because the results took place over time and gave them a chance to experience success on a realistic and sustainable diet and exercise regimen. Click here to read the fantastic responses we got from our employees.

Our focus was fat loss, not weight loss. The reason is because they are not always the same thing. Body weight can be manipulated by several factors, water weight, bone density, muscle mass, etc; and fat loss is specifically that, dropping fat. That is why it’s more important to measure body fat than the scales.

After our first challenge, members of the 12 teams lost 292 pounds by the seventh week, including a range of individual weight loss from 7 pounds to 47 pounds. At the end of the 10 weeks, the percentage of fat loss on an individual basis was anywhere from 7% to 28% or an average 14%, or 330 pounds of fat loss! An average of 5.5 pounds of fat was lost per person!   

Visit to see a series of impressive before and after shots. Scroll to the bottom of the page to view a flash presentation that continually rotates the photos. You can also click through at your own pace.

You can see from the photos that the change was marked but not drastic, which is what we want because we know that drastic change from trendy diets and constant high-intensity workouts are not sustainable. Most of the weight that is lost on severely restrictive weight-loss diets is regained in the following six months after the diet.

Why did our employees respond so favorably? I’ll explore that in my next blog. Keep a look out for my weekly blogs focusing on innovative engagement tips and advice.

Download the PDF.

Share What’s Worked for You

Has your company ever tried anything like the 5 on 5? Share in the comment box below.


Len Garrison

Len Garrison has been in the people empowering business for more than 15 years. He has held leadership positions at athletic facilities (one being a supervisor at The Atlanta Athletic Club in Duluth), and he holds three fitness specialist certifications (NSCA, NESTA & SIEP). Currently, he is director of health and wellness programs at Jackson Healthcare, a medical staffing company in metropolitan Atlanta. Previous positions include wellness director for Toyota (South Region) and wellness ambassador for Nordstrom. Len has also been a youth director, high school teacher, public speaker and mentor to young adults.

His passion is to see people infused with mental, physical and spiritual power. He is an authentic life coach, author and father of three.

Favorite quote: "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it."

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One Response to Ask Your Employees What THEY Want
  1. Michelle Jernigan
    June 6, 2012 | 4:12 pm

    Great article. I work for Jackson Healthcare, and the transformation, attitude and zest for a healthy lifestyle is contagious throughout the company. Len has taken the fitness initiative at Jackson Healthcare, to the next level by adopting a standard of Wellness Excellence, making health, fitness and wellness fun and achievable The changing of the belief system of our Associates is promoting long term habits that not only prolongs life, fights disease, increases productivity on the job, but most importantly gives people purpose and a sense of ownership of their lives, through a balance of exercise, healthy eating and teamwork.

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