While the business’ need for employee wellness programs is clear, the value of integrating wellness into employee training programs has still been largely overlooked. As burnout and anxiety levels continue to rise, learning and development (L&D) professionals must adopt a holistic approach to training that not only focuses on driving engagement, but also getting results.
Training programs can benefit from incorporating wellness essentials into their course design, from mental and emotional health to physical and environmental well-being. Programs that infuse wellness principles into their offerings can provide learners with the tools they need to become resilient assets to the organization’s success. To begin integrating wellness into your training programs, follow these three steps.
1. Unlock Intrinsic Motivation
Unlike external motivation, which comes from the approval of others, intrinsic motivation comes from our own approval of ourselves. Training professionals should help learners develop a positive mindset to propel them forward into completing their best work and to acting resilient when faced with challenges or setbacks. Ask these questions to unlock employees’ internal drivers:
- What’s your goal after you complete this training?
- What’s your larger vision for your career?
- How does this training support your long-term goals?
Connecting your training program to their personal goals is a powerful way to shift their perspective and build resiliency. Remember to celebrate small wins, especially in the beginning, to create momentum and to build confidence. As a learning leader, it is your responsibility to help learners get the most out of training not only for the organization’s sake, but for themselves.
To help learners connect with their training experience, you can use positive reinforcement during the initial struggle to help them move from any procrastination and resistance to learning. Remind learners of their “why” so they don’t lose sight of what they are working toward. Helping them keep their broader goals top of mind will fuel motivation and pull them through the challenging times that inevitably arise when learning something new.
2. Instill Habits for Emotional Well-being
A learner’s state of mind impacts how effectively they can focus and retain information as well as how they manage setbacks and stress. A key part of holistic training is to instill stress management habits and develop your learner’s mental fitness. To exclude the learner’s emotional state would be to miss a key opportunity in improving and elevating the learning experience.
- Cultivate a growth mindset in learners by helping them “fail forward.” Remind students to trust the process of learning, to anticipate a struggle in the beginning and to start seeing failures as the learning opportunities they truly are. When students can relax into the process of learning without perfectionism paralysis their brains will be better primed for making new connections.
- Help learners identify any negative self-talk. Once they are aware of any self-critical thoughts, remind them that they can interrupt it with a mantra or affirmation. These can even be funny. The first step is to make sure learners recognize that negative thoughts are automatic responses in the brain and are not accurate.
- Recommend techniques, such as mindfulness and breath work, to self-regulate on the spot. Research shows that deep breathing can reduce stress by helping disengage the mind from distracting or negative thoughts and by combating depression and anxiety that are a result of stress. Breath work also slows the heart rate, which can lower blood pressure and stress levels.
3. Promote Training Like an Athlete
When learning new material or mastering a skill, most employees do not take their physical health in account to training. However, if they forgo the fundamentals of rest, recovery and good nutrition, their concentration and ability to learn and retain new information will suffer just as an athlete’s performance might.
- Encourage physical activity to improve focus, lessen stress and boost brain power. Movement pumps blood to the brain, providing the oxygen and nutrients needed to process information. Research has found that physical activity boosts brain power and performance.
- Balance high-impact learning intervals with active recovery time to avoid burnout. Like elite athletes, all of us need to manage intensity with recovery for optimal performance. Create calendars with this in mind and encourage students to schedule down time into their training season.
- Remind learners of the importance of fueling themselves with nutrient-rich brain foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Training offers a transformational opportunity to build healthier habits. However, efforts to integrate wellness into training programs are not one-and-done but require follow up and practice to stick. Start by sharing the tools, such as setting a vision and intention to generate the motivation that will help learners persevere even in the hardest moments.
Also, remind learners that habits develop through consistent action. Their successes begin and end with themselves. When they stop doubting their abilities, they can become energized to take the next steps toward achieving their goals, thus breeding confidence.
Wellness and training programs that operate hand-in-hand, rather than on two parallel paths, can provide powerful synergies that support learners and drive business outcomes.