Module 2
Motivating staff
to be healthy

In this section you will learn:

Different methods of engaging and motivating workers

How to identify simple principles of behaviour change

Ways to promote your health and wellbeing program

Ways to motivate and engage your staff


Most organisations implement a workplace health and wellbeing program to improve the overall health of their workforce. In order to do this, staff must be engaged with your program.

Often it is the healthiest staff members that are the easiest to engage, but in order to improve the health and wellbeing of your workforce, you need to find ways to engage all staff members. Focus on ways to include and motivate those who demonstrate less healthy behaviours and are more resistant to change.


The idea of improving health may not be enough to motivate some people to change their health behaviours. The key is to find out what it is that does motivate staff to want to improve their health. These motivators can be identified by consulting with staff. Ensure you also identify any barriers that exist in the workplace currently (e.g. a biscuit tin in the staff kitchen). Some examples of common motivators include:

  • Weight management
  • Stress reduction
  • Sleep improvements
  • Being a good role-model for children
  • Workplace incentives and comradery


Once you understand what motivates your workers, you can then tailor how you promote your workplace health and wellbeing program in order to increase participation.

Ensuring your health message is "sticky"

Engaging your employees and keeping them interested in their health at work can be tricky. ‘Sticky’ messages can help as they are easy to understand, are remembered, and have a long lasting impact that can change levels of knowledge, attitudes and even behaviours.

So how do you make a message ‘sticky’? Use the six principles of the ‘stickiness factor’:1

  • 1. Simplicity

    Make the idea simple by stripping it to its core, or using an analogy.

    Make complex information simple and understandable. Here’s an example using hypertension (high blood pressure):

    • Simple – High blood pressure is like having high pressure in a pipe. The pressure causes damage that can’t be seen until it bursts the pipe.
    • Complex – Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure within the arteries is elevated. This leads to an increased risk of coronary artery disease.
  • 2. Unexpectedness

    Demand attention by generating interest and curiosity with the element of surprise.

    Using surprising facts or figures might help you to do this. For example:

    • Did you know that one in three Australian’s have high cholesterol?
    • Did you know that a 600 mL bottle of iced coffee contains 14 teaspoons of sugar?


    Australia’s Health 2014 is a great resource if you’re looking for health statistics.

  • 3. Concreteness

    Ensure the idea means the same to everyone, make it real, not abstract.

    Concrete information is easier to understand and remember. For example:

    • ‘Did you know that a 600 mL bottle of cola drink contains over 1,000 kJ?’ This statement is abstract as many may be unfamiliar with what a kJ is.
    • ‘Did you know a 600 mL bottle of cola drink contains 16 teaspoons of sugar?’ This statement is concrete as a teaspoon is a familiar measurement.
  • 4. Credibility

    Use a credible source to deliver the idea and always use evidence-based information.

    If you are using facts or figures to make your point sticky, ensure you are sourcing them from a credible health organisation. Government agencies (such as the Department of Health or the National Health and Medical Research Council) and Non-Government organisations (such as the Heart Foundation and Cancer Council WA) are great sources of credible information.

    If you are engaging with a health professional to provide education or advice to staff, ensure they are university qualified. For example, use a dietitian for nutrition information or an exercise physiologist for exercise information.

  • 5. Emotions

    Use associations to tie ideas to something people care about, things that resonate with your audience.

    Feelings inspire people to act, and we can use this to engage workers to care about something they might not have otherwise cared about. For example, a scientific study completed in 2012 found that dog owners were more likely to participate in physical activity if you told them that it was good for the health of their dog, rather than for their own health.

  • 6. Stories

    Encourage mental stimulation and re-enactment through sharing the experience of others.

    People often learn through the experiences of others, so it’s important that you share positive outcomes and good news amongst the workplace. Sharing testimonials and real stories from peers can be a powerful tool to motivate and encourage staff to participate in healthy behaviours.

Using workplace health promotion to create behaviour change

With the right strategies your workplace health and wellbeing program can positively influence all staff, including those who may appear disinterested at the start. Strategies such as healthy policies and supportive workplace environments can influence staff to change their behaviour.

There are numerous scientific models which describe how behaviour change occurs. One that is particularly useful for workplaces is called the “stages of change” model2 which describes the five stages a worker might go through when converting an unhealthy behaviour into a healthier behaviour.

It’s likely that you will have employees within each of the five stages, therefore it’s important that a range of strategies are developed that cater to the different stages. The challenge is to identify strategies that will target and engage those in the earlier stages (pre-contemplation and contemplation) as these workers are usually the hardest to engage.

The stages of change

The following demonstrates the five successive stages of behaviour change2 and the workplace strategies that can be used to help individuals, who are working towards the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle.

Helpful strategies
Practical example

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Helpful strategies

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Physical inactivity

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Program promotion

Once you have established what motivates your workers and identified suitable strategies, the final step is to effectively communicate to them. Promotion is essential in engaging your staff as it will allow you to:

  • Raise awareness,
  • Generate interest,
  • Motivate participation,  and
  • Keep participants interested and involved.

We have listed a few program promotion suggestions you might find useful:

Print promotions

  • Create eye-catching posters and place them in high-traffic areas
  • Include a message in your staff newsletter
  • Place a flyer in staff pigeonholes or with payslips

Online Promotions

  • Include a message on your intranet
  • Email staff and set calendar reminders about events
  • Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to notify staff


  • Talk to workers at a team or whole of staff meeting
  • Utilise workplace health champions to spread the word (e.g. managers or enthusiastic staff members)
  • Share any successes or positive experiences from staff members

Program Launch Event

  • Get support from senior management
  • Invite an interesting guest speaker
  • Provide a healthy breakfast, lunch or morning tea
  • Give away pedometers or other incentives to encourage attendance


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