What makes a great Chief Wellbeing Officer / Workplace Wellbeing VP or Director?

map about the different aspects of workplace wellbeing

Before we explore what a great senior workplace wellbeing employee looks like, it is worth noting that:

  • You might struggle to find someone with all of these skills or competencies and if so, consider the context they are going to enter, and focus on the skills necessary to meet your org where it is at.


  • I haven’t stated here 10+ years’ etc experience working in workplace wellbeing, this is for two important reasons;


  1. There are very few people who would have that experience and so you might be putting off great potential recruits by making that a condition of recruitment. Think broader because…


  1. Much of the work that has traditionally been done in by workplace wellbeing practitioners is coming under increasing scrutiny as it struggle to demonstrate value add. As such, having experience may not always be good experience, or the type of experience that is actually needed in your org.


As such, for me, this is much more about skills and passion than it is about experience. If you do find someone with a lot of relevant experience, that is great, but the below checklist will still be a very helpful guide for better understanding the competency and attitude necessary for the role.


How to find/be a workplace wellbeing rockstar?

Rounded understanding of workplace health and wellbeing

I emphasise the workplace context because simply having wellbeing, wellness, or mental health knowledge is not enough. This is because as evidence continues to demonstrate, very often the workplace environment is part of the root cause of the challenges individuals face with their wellbeing, and without tackling those, personal care is unlikely to be an adequate antidote, nor have the desired impact your org wants from its investment.

Influence, persuasion & negotiation

The wellbeing practitioner’s role is to influence and persuade change, and to negotiate reasonable terms and pay-offs for that change with both individuals and groups at all levels of the organization.

Commercial acumen

Being able to persuade, influence, and negotiate in a business context means having the commercial acumen to assess and calculate the investment needed to generate the potential returns. Your wellbeing practitioner will need to have these skills or ready access to someone who does.

Strategic planning and delivery

I refer you back to my earlier articles on Shaping an impactful and measurable workplace wellbeing strategy to determine the level of strategic skills necessary to develop a high-impact wellbeing strategy. Without the necessary strategic skills, your wellbeing employee will have little chance of yielding a sound ROI and even less chance of being able to prove that they have.

Relationship & partnership building

The role is going to require support and input from both internal and external professionals. This may include developing a comms plan with the marketing team, or creating a measurement tracking system with technology, but it could also include securing speaker slots at prestigious conferences or contracting a wellbeing service provider.

Growth mindset

Much like the ‘fat is bad’ era, wellbeing, and especially workplace wellbeing knowledge is changing and evolving rapidly. The expectations and understanding of what workplace wellbeing is, is also changing fast and will continue to do so. This is a space that requires constant curiosity, re-evaluation, piloting, and changing our perspective multiple times.

Flexibility and agility

As with above, this is not a role that suits individuals who like things to be predictable, routine, or similar year in year out. To a degree, this person will make their own ‘organised chaos’, but we should be looking for an appetite and openness for development, taking on new challenges, trying new approaches, and turning our hand to multiple tasks each day etc.


As with growth mindset, wellbeing practitioners need to be committed networkers, willing to find and attend suitable networking opportunities, conferences, and events. This is where they will explore what is evolving, learn what other industries are doing, and meet potential partners, consultants, or new recruits. A strong network can also be a fantastic antidote for what can otherwise be a bit of a lonely world, because of your small or non-existent wellbeing team.

Marketing and communications

Much of the battle with workplace wellbeing is a lack of effective communications. Having some experience in internal comms, marketing, PR, or branding etc will be helpful. However, not essential if there is someone inside the organization or a budget to hire some external support who can support with developing and executing a comprehensive and effective wellbeing comms plan.

Legal and regulatory understanding

It is helpful if the person has some legal and/or regulatory understanding of the relationship between an organization and its employees. It certainly isn’t essential upon hiring as it can easily be learnt. However, without this, there may be a tendency for an enthusiastic wellbeing professional to accidentally land themselves or the organization in hot water.

Research & data analysis

A great wellbeing practitioner should have a dogged commitment to discovering the truth. The truth about how well employees are, how they feel at and about their work, what initiatives are adding value (or not), what gaps are emerging (or closing), what prevents people engaging etc. These insights will come from a mixture of objective and self-reported data sources and will require frequent observation & analysis.

Active listening

At it’s heart, workplace wellbeing is (at the moment at least) about the change management and transformation of the way we work and the habits, behaviours and knowledge of the people doing that work. This means we must not only listen to understand but listen to generate a new ‘world order’. To do this effectively we must ensure we are really hearing what others are telling us to understand both what will drive and resist this much-needed change.

Persistence, determination, & resilience.

The wellbeing practitioner is likely to face a lot of resistance and possibly even some opposition. They may deliver something they worked hard at, but nobody seems interested. They may have to fight for resources or support for this relatively new area that not everyone ‘gets’ yet. They may have to navigate obstructions they are powerless to change. There can be a lot of negative, in this seemingly positive and forward-looking career path. Being able to bounce-back, and persevere with determination is critical.

Leadership & role modelling

As with any change management or influencing role, this is leadership in action. This role requires the person to create and articulate a vision, design a route to achieving it, and hold themselves and others accountable for delivering. Highly developed leadership skills, the ability to inspire others to follow, and to keep following even when the going gets tough is what’s needed. To do that, they must be seen as trustworty; someone who has integrity and authenticity, and who is transparent about the new journey they are taking the organization on, even if it isn’t always rosy.


As mentioned before, this is a relatively new area, which means that on occasion we are going to need to trust our instincts and try something new, and possibly even radical compared to the status-quo. This could be the introduction of a 4-day-week, a large investment in an onsite gym and fitness studio, or a complete overhaul of the performance management and rewards system. This is an area crying out for risk-takers because the traditional approaches are failing to deliver and if you want impact, you are going to need to take some risks.



Certifications and courses worth exploring:

  • Change management/Transformation – Initially some basic development here would suffice.
  • Influence, persuasion, and negotiation – I recommend this for anyone as part of their key business and personal skills.
  • Organizational psychology – From an early phase certification to a Master’s degree, there are plenty of opportunities to become a better workplace wellbeing professional by focussing here.
  • CMI – Award in Strategic Approaches to Health and Wellbeing (Level 7). The aim of the award is for senior leaders to understand the impact of mental health and wellbeing on organisational performance.
  • National Wellness Institute – Certified Wellness Practitioner recognizes participants competence in the five domains of the NWI Wellness Promotion Competency Model
  • World Happiness Academy – Chief Well-Being Officer Program. This is the 1st Program in the world based on the USA Surgeon General’s Framework: Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being
  • Chapman Institute – Programmes for coordinators, managers, directors and consultants.


If you know of others, please drop me a note so I can add them in.


Free strategic wellbeing resources from WellWise.

WellWise currently offers two free resources to help professionals to understand and develop a wellbeing strategy.

E-book: Workplace Wellbeing: How we got here and where we went wrong

Whitepaper: Workplace Wellbeing, a strategically integrated approach and how to master it.

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