The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

055: Dream Bigger with Sara Rauch, Director of Strategy and Planning at WELCOA


Most of you have probably heard of or are members of WELCOA (Wellness Council of America). My 5th podcast interview was with the President of WELCOA, Ryan Picarella, where he shared his vision for changing the wellness conversation.

The change in leadership has also brought in new blood to help Ryan execute on the organization’s strategy. Todays guest is Sara Rauch, the Director of Strategy and Planning at WELCOA. Sara tells us a bit about the inner workings of WELCOA, some upcoming updates to the Well Workplace Checklist and Award, why WELCOA’s a neutral force in the market and she shares a deeply personal story that led her into the field of organizational/industrial psych and wellness.

Sara mentions several names in the industry worth noting and I’m happy to say almost all of them are past podcast guests!

The Interview:

Sara tells us what she does at WELCOA. She’s known for getting things done. Her and Ryan worked together at the Blues of Tennessee. Her role is project based work where she’s responsible for the development and roll out of projects and the annual Summit. WELCOA is a small operation of only 12 employees.

She gives us her take on the changes she has seen over the past 3 years, both internally and externally. The previous model was more of “genius with a thousand helpers”. Internal employees are positioned for career growth, the culture is thriving and it feels like a true wellness company.

WELCOA considers themselves a neutral force in the market. This allows the definition of wellness to grow and evolve. They are a part of defining the value story for wellness.

We discuss the Code of Conduct and why WELCOA endorsed it. It’s not a new idea; they had heard murmuring of this concept from thought leaders (before Al and Jon brought it up). A lot of industries have a code of conduct. It’s not personal but really what’s best for the industry. Sara answers what she thinks the Code’s future holds.

Sara tells us a bit about her background in Organizational Development/Industrial Psychology. She’s less interested in thinking of “programs” but rather wellness as a business strategy. We have to have a seat at the table and show the value.

WELCOA client make up: 45% client facing, 55% internal HR/wellness coordination

Sara tells us how she got into the wellness field. She shares a deeply personal story that impacted her view of work and wellness.

The most interesting question we can ask:

How do we change cultures, climates and organizations to impact the human sustainability of employees?

Sara offers advice for wellness pros to change the culture: Go Rogue…use Tests of Change or pilots to gain traction on ideas.

She tells us about how WELCOA is enhancing the 7 Benchmarks of Wellness and Checklist, which will roll out next year. It will be evolving into the next iteration (maximizing, not changing).

Sara ends with words of wisdom…make sure you are memorable with stories, not just data.

Links Mentioned:

Ryan Picarella’s interview

Whitney Gray’s (Delos) interview

Michelle Segar’s Interview

Mitch Martens’s Interview


Sara’s purpose is helping people fulfill their highest potential in work and life through corporate health promotion. She has launched award winning wellness programs, created new wellness products, and engineered work environments to create cultures of health across multiple industries.

At WELCOA, she is responsible for conceptualizing the strategy behind new innovative products and bringing them to market, developing new content and content channels and maintaining relationships with WELCOA’s network of business partners and content providers. She has been a session and keynote speaker at a variety of community and national events including National Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Conference, the Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference, and the National WELCOA Training Summit.  She sits on the Johns Hopkins Mental Health in the Workplace Advisory Council, the CDC Workplace Health Resource Center Steering Committee, and has served as Ambassador for the American Association of University Women.

Sara’s background includes corporate training, organizational development, and health promotion management. Before joining the WELCOA Team, Sara managed the award-winning Well@Work employee wellness program for the 5,000 employees of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and served as Health Management Consultant for the BlueCross commercial book of business. Sara received her BA in Psychology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Wellness Professionals

Check out the free resource below to learn how you can have greater impact & influence in your organization.