Oct 29, 2018

Company Culture: Is Wellness "IT"?

Company Culture: Is Wellness It?
An exclusive interview with Michael Susi, Director of Global Wellness, LinkedIn

When his college football career came to an end, it didn’t end Michael Susi’s active life. In many ways, it was just the beginning. Now Director of Global Wellness at LinkedIn, Michael is more committed to a healthy lifestyle than ever. After building his own fitness company Susifit (http://www.susi.fit.com) and developing the successful LinkedIn Health and Wellness Program, Susi is convinced wellness is vital to living your best life. And it's a critical component of company culture.

“Wellness is a big part of our company culture,” Susi said when we had a chance to sit down and talk with him. “When people are well, they are happy. And when they’re happier, they work harder to achieve their goals, too.”

When Susi set out to build LinkedIn’s wellness program in 2011, it was never about just making people healthier at work. For him, it was and always will be about helping LinkedIn’s employees and their families create and sustain a healthier lifestyle through their education and offerings. It’s no joke that when people dread coming to work, their mood and attitudes are low. So why not make people want to come to work?

For Susi, health and wellness isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. His program is designed to touch every single aspect of a healthy lifestyle, from fitness all the way to nutrition. Not only does LinkedIn offer on-site fitness facilities to motivate employees to be active, but they encourage employees to choose food that makes them feel their best. LinkedIn’s chef provides daily nutritious meals to help the employees perform their best. But the healthy food doesn’t just boost performance – it also alleviates the time and stress that come with having to prepare and bring a healthy breakfast and lunch to work every day. Health and wellness at LinkedIn isn’t just about the body, either. Education is one of the program’s main pillars. According to Susi, when employees learn how to set healthy patterns inside the office, they’re much more likely to continue them at home.

Instead of challenging LinkedIn employees to get involved in the new wellness program, Susi approached it differently. “Everyone already wants to be healthy,” he said. “When they have a workplace that supports that desire, it’s so much easier to maintain.”

And research shows that he’s absolutely right. When people are surrounded by a healthy environment for more than 50% of the day, it becomes an integrated part of their lives. With wellness embedded in a company’s culture, employees learn to create and sustain healthy lifestyles outside of the office. “I don’t care if they use our facilities here at LinkedIn to workout or eat well. What’s most important is that they take what they learn here and use it any way that suits them.”

LinkedIn fitness in action - photo credit Wellness Magazine

As a result of making wellness a priority, LinkedIn recruiting and retention rates have increased. The wellness program has directly resulted in 75% of employees feeling more loyal to LinkedIn. And in the SF Bay Area and Silicon Valley where the battle for talent is both extreme and constant, that’s no small feat. “We knew we wanted to make potential employees feel comfortable and let them know that we care about them,” Susi explains. Past generations may not be accustomed to wellness as a part of the business culture, but clearly Millennials and Gen-Xers expect it.

WELLNESS may be the new requirement for companies to recruit and keep the healthiest employees aligned with the corporate purpose.