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Step Challenge

Graziadio School Strategies Priorities

Creating a better place to work is one of the key Pepperdine Graziadio School objectives -- and with good reason. A wide body of research correlates employee engagement and well-being with performance. And employees who feel valued and supported in their work roles are more likely to experience an overall positive work experience.

In recognition that his leadership team had expressed the need to exercise more, Dean Smith considered how he might be able to promote a more balanced life through the workplace. Reflecting the school's commitment to holistically care for the whole person, at the end of last year he gave everyone a fitness tracker of their choice. As 2016 dawned, Dean Smith launched a new initiative: he established The Step Challenge within his leadership team to encourage them to incorporate better health habits into their lives.

Everyone took the challenge to heart. Dean Smith, Associate Dean Williams, Associate Dean Paglia, Interim Associate Dean Feyerherm, Interim Associate Dean Chun, Executive Director Mikolajczak and Assistant Dean Bauman synched their fitness trackers to match-up.com so everyone could see how others were doing. The natural Graziadio competitiveness kicked in!

The first challenge in January was set by Dean Smith: who could track the most consecutive days of 10,000 steps? With 100,000 more steps than any other participant, Associate Dean Paglia won handily, reporting that the challenge changed the way he worked. He found himself walking around while working versus sitting down, which resulted in greater enjoyment and a healthier lifestyle.

In the spirit of the challenge, the "loser" each month set the goal for the next month. The target goal for February was the most days with 10,000 steps and the most days with seven hours of sleep per night. The winner for February was Interim Associate Dean Feyerherm. The key to her success, she noted, was that whenever she had meetings, she would conduct them while walking; as a result, she felt physically better, alert and toned.

"It was fun hearing about how people were walking around their house at 11p.m. to get their steps in before midnight."

David Smith, PhD

Dean, Graziadio School

The leadership team responded to The Step Challenge with enthusiasm and encouragement -- and more than a little trash talking! Everyone enjoyed the fun of a competitive challenge while getting into shape. According to Dean Smith, "It was fun hearing about how people were walking around their house at 11 p.m. to get their steps in before midnight." At the same time, The Step Challenge led to increased personal well-being and a shared sense of employee connectivity.

How can you create a better place to work in your department? First, consider programs that engage team members, fit their lifestyle and contribute to employee physical and/or emotional health and well-being. Before you roll out a full program, start with small challenges to encourage involvement, and stress participation, not winning. Don't delegate responsibility for managing the challenge to someone who won't be fully invested in both the mission and the outcomes. And remember, a little gentle competition is good for morale!