Healthier, Happier Employees Better for Students

Spring is a wonderful time of year at Dalton State with end-of-year honor society inductions, awards ceremonies, pinning ceremonies, and of course graduation. It is also the time of year when many of us are struggling with allergies, thinking of taking off a few pounds, planting gardens, and preparing for life transitions such as graduations of our own sons and daughters. This makes the timing of a new University System of Georgia initiative perfect for Dalton State. The USG recognizes that the personal lives of its employees have an impact on the productivity and success of our campuses. Therefore, the USG has just rolled out a new program that is providing its employees with the resources to make a positive difference in our own lives and in the lives of our family members.

The USG has launched a well-being initiative for its employees and spouses covered by USG benefits plans. In the past few years, we have engaged in pilot wellness programs which were focused primarily on exercise, specifically increasing our awareness of our daily steps. This new well-being initiative, however, goes beyond the typical wellness program because well-being refers to a more holistic view of the health of an individual. In addition to our eating and exercise habits from previous wellness programs, we are now also attending to our sleep, stress management and preventive health management as well as resources to become financially fit (e.g., retirement planning, budgeting, saving).

To accomplish this well-being effort, employees are offered a variety of tools including digital coaching, webinars, videos, tracking tools and opportunities to earn credits toward our employee benefits expenses. You may wonder why so much time and effort is being placed on employees rather than our students. In fact, research demonstrates that emotionally, physically and financially healthy employees produce better outcomes at work. Since Dalton State is committed to the success of our students we are, in turn, committed to the well-being of our employees.

Over the past few months, I have already seen improvements on campus with an increased focus on healthy lifestyles. Several of our faculty and staff have achieved noticeable weight loss. Employees are participating in 5Ks and even marathons as well as hiking, kayaking and traveling for vacations and weekend retreats. We have been informed that more Dalton State employees have registered for this program than any other USG institution. I am pleased and proud that our employees are willing to engage in this endeavor.

In similar fashion, Dalton State has committed more fully to the professional development of our employees through our own in-house leadership development program. Focusing initially on employees who are likely to be ready sooner than later for a higher level of leadership on campus, the Dalton State Leadership Excellence Institute provides employees with a model of leading change. Participants identify a challenge they wish to resolve on campus and work together in small groups using the leadership tools from the program to implement a solution to the identified challenge. This leadership program supplements other professional development opportunities for our employees and is designed to help with succession planning. It is disruptive and costly to recruit employees from off campus every time there is a vacancy.

As our employees are attending to their own well-being, I believe we are modeling good behaviors for our students, exhibiting in ourselves the lifelong learning we promote to our students. We are demonstrating the value of improving ourselves in a variety of ways at every age and stage of our personal and professional lives. This is what we want for our students as well.

Our wellness and well-being efforts are already beginning to pay off. We are producing more graduates with four-year degrees than ever before. We are adding new programs and updating our existing programs to ensure that our graduates are well prepared for the world beyond Dalton State. We are engaged in a variety of activities described as the Momentum Year work intended to increase the success rates of our students. We are improving our physical facilities in both highly visible and less visible ways with the support of private donations as well as state funding. We are helping our students focus on their academics by supporting their financial needs through scholarships.

As cold winter weather has finally yielded to warm spring days, I hope you will join Dalton State in renewing your commitment to your well-being. The Roadrunner Nation lives boldly!