What Does The Chief Wellness Officer of the Future Look Like?

At Springbuk, we’re obsessed with data and its impact on wellness. That means we’re always looking forward to what’s next in the industry. As we’ve observed hundreds of different wellness programs, we’ve noticed a distinct trend… Today’s wellness professionals look a lot like yesterday’s marketing professionals.

20 years ago, there weren’t a ton of Chief Marketing Officers in companies outside of the Fortune 500. The highest-ranking marketing official in a company was usually a Director or a Vice President, and their role was typically considered a luxury. They designed brochures and chose the company polos. Sometimes they were trusted to buy a table skirt for a trade show.

Then, things started to change. As Kimberly Whitler, from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, put it, the CMO was “the most misunderstood and frankly under-appreciated” role in the C-suite. Here at Springbuk, we believe that this is true of the Chief Wellness Officer today.

The Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) is the most misunderstood and frankly, under-appreciated, role in the C-Suite.

So, how do you turn your department from misunderstood and under-appreciated to a C-Suite rockstar? We have some ideas as to what the future may hold, and how you can capitalize on these opportunities.

What is a “Chief Wellness Officer?”

One of the primary reasons that wellness professionals struggle to envision the “CWO of the Future” is because very few of them have a member of the C-Suite today. Before you can envision a futuristic CWO, you have to be able to envision a wellness professional in the C-Suite.

So, how do you define “Chief Wellness Officer?”

A Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) is responsible for improving the overall health and well-being of a company’s most valuable assets, its employees. The scope of this role includes:

  • Selecting and working with a “health team” of vendors, brokers and consultants to develop a program for the organization.
  • Designing wellness initiatives, such as exercise programs, healthy office snacks, or smoking cessation incentive programs.
  • Reporting on health outcomes of members.
  • Measuring Return on Investment (ROI) on all wellness initiatives.
  • Leveraging data and predictive modeling to craft new wellness initiatives, increase investment in initiatives that are working, and decrease investment in initiatives that don’t move the needle.

At Springbuk, we believe that, over the next decade, we are going to see a dramatic increase in the number of wellness professionals in the C-Suite. This raises the question, what does the CWO of the future look like? In this new landscape of data and predictive insights, who will rise to the top and who will struggle to adapt?

Here are some of the trends that we are anticipating in wellness departments in the next decade.

The Chief Wellness Officer of the Future Leverages Data to Drive Decisions

Remember our CMO from 20 years ago? The one stuck buying polos and table skirts? They weren’t considered to be big players in the organization because they didn’t have access to one thing: Data.

We see similar trends in the wellness space. We have worked with hundreds of organizations whose health and wellness programs are demonstrably successful. They have been saving their organizations tons of money and improving the health of their population for years. In some cases, these programs are saving millions of dollars in potential health costs. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the data to back it up, it’s hard to get buy-in from the rest of the organization.

Fortunately, we have seen a steady increase in the number of organizations seeking to measure the true ROI of workplace wellness initiatives.

According to our recent study, 54.6 percent of employers say that their wellness programs are currently “metric-driven.” This is a positive indicator, but we don’t believe that the best CWOs in a decade will be focused on last year’s statistics, or “lagging indicators.” We believe that they will do the same thing that the world’s best CMOs do today: Leverage predictive analytics.

Today’s best marketing pros can predict ROI on every initiative they run and analyze their position in the marketplace several steps in advance. They’re playing chess. We believe that wellness professionals should be playing the same game, but they’re not playing against other companies, they’re playing against disease.

Over the next decade, expect to see wellness programs that don’t just measure return on investment, but also focus on things like managing gaps in care, forecasting future health costs, and analyzing trends in their current population’s health.

The Best CWOs Will Embrace Personalization and Two-Way Communication

This is where the analogy of wellness and marketing seems to be the most obvious. 20 years ago, marketers were lucky if they had any data on the audience receiving their message. They were stuck batching and blasting the same message via billboard, direct mail, TV, or radio to everyone, hoping their target market would see it.  

Today, marketers can target their message to you based on everything from demographic data about you to your personal shopping patterns online. Their mission is no longer to batch and blast, it’s to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

Similarly, it’s only a matter of time before the blanket wellness program approach is overrun with data-driven decisions. Within the next few years, you’re likely to see many organizations embracing the idea of targeted, segmented wellness programs based on targeted needs and areas of the population. You can send a different message to the health nut who participates in everything than the couch potato who has never even gone to a lunch-and-learn.

In the future, Chief Wellness Officers won’t just be experts on their population’s health, they’ll be experts at motivating change. They’ll know how to target and message to different populations far more effectively than their less data-driven counterparts.

In 2025, The World’s Best Chief Wellness Officers Will Be Tech Experts

Finally, if the wellness space mirrors the marketing space, we are about to see a giant rise in wellness professionals who are obsessed with emerging technology.

20 years ago, marketers rarely used technology. 10 years ago, they used whatever was cheapest or easiest to use. Today, they’re responsible for an entire marketing tech “stack” and according to Gartner, they spend more on IT than the CIO.

If wellness follows marketing’s lead, there is likely to be a huge surge in the next decade in, forward-thinking wellness professionals who are adept at learning new technology and leveraging it to do their job more effectively. Those who adapt will find themselves getting raises, promotions, and huge budgets, while those who hold onto their old ways will struggle to expand their departments.

In the marketing space, this revolution all stemmed from proving their ROI. The more effective CMOs were able to prove their value, the more companies were willing to invest into their department. Similarly, we believe that as wellness professionals begin to leverage technology tools like Springbuk to show the return on their initiatives, their influence will expand far beyond its current scope.

Action Items: Things You Can Do Today to Become a Forward-Thinking Wellness Professional

If you’re looking to expand your influence in your organization and become one of the forward-thinking wellness professionals of the future, there are a few things you can do today to take a step in the right direction:

  • Audit your “wellness tech stack” to better understand how you currently leverage technology, and what deficiencies exist.
  • Schedule a demo with a tech tool that you’ve never seen.
  • Sign up to receive insights from the Springbuk team. We try to send out the most forward-thinking content in the industry, and we’d love to loop you in.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in learning more about how our software platform is helping hundreds of HR & Benefits professionals make more metric-driven decisions, request a demo or download this e-guide on the future of CWOs.