Ken Okazawa has been leading People & Organization at MARS Canada since 2009 with energy to burn. As a leader of people, Ken ‘walks the talk’ when it comes to fitness and health both personally and professionally and embodies MARS’ commitment to individual and organizational wellbeing.
Ken was active growing up playing basketball and other sports, but while raising a young family he had let his fitness slip. When he started to coach his older son’s basketball team six years ago, he realized how out of shape he had become and vowed to do something about it. Today Ken works out at a local gym two to three times a week with a program focused on flexibility, mobility, strength and cardio, and gets in at least a seven kilometer run on the weekends.
Ken believes in making fitness a family affair. As a committed dad, he is now coaching his younger son’s rep basketball team, the Caledon Cougars, and participates in their dry land fitness workouts at the gym. His wife works out at the gym too and together they are passionate about preparing healthy meals for their family. They love to get outdoors whenever they get a chance whether it is dog walks with Charlie or active holidays camping, zip lining, skiing and snorkeling.
When Ken started at MARS twenty one years ago the company didn’t have as much focus on wellbeing as it does today. Now the company has an on-site fitness centre for their 300 Associates in Bolton and provides ongoing support through Tri Fit’s in house fitness and wellness consultant. Ken was able to strengthen and build his personal commitment to wellbeing while working at MARS Canada.
MARS has been on a wellbeing journey for many years adding new elements to their program along the way. In 2010 MARS Canada launched the Energy for Performance Program with the Human Performance Institute, a program to enhance personal energy management for productivity and resiliency at work and at home. The entire executive team has been through the program and several associates have become ambassadors, training new recruits as part of the onboarding process. MARS’ wellbeing strategy is closely aligned with their corporate strategy for talent in which MARS aspires to be the company that millions want to join, stay and grow with as well as the company’s Five Principles of Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom.
In 2012 MARS added another element into their wellbeing offerings through a partnership with Gallup. MARS had partnered with Gallup for a number of years on their associate engagement survey, and as there is a clear link between engagement and wellbeing they implemented a Wellbeing Program that provides a holistic approach to monitor and determine where to invest your personal energy. The Gallup Wellbeing framework features five interconnected elements that shape our lives; Career Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing, Financial Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing and Community Wellbeing.
MARS believes that all of these elements contribute to a holistic and sustainable approach to wellbeing that will benefit individuals and the organization for years to come and is a great example of bringing their Principles of Responsibility and Mutuality to life. Through these wellbeing investments MARS enables their associates to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and provides a mutual benefit for both the company and the associate.
Ken is not the only senior leader at MARS that walks the talk. The MARS leadership team has a tradition of going for a run together at the start of or after a long day of meetings. Associates are encouraged to join one of their many sports teams including onsite basketball, beach volleyball, ball hockey, and offsite indoor/outdoor soccer, softball, mountain biking or the running club. They also promote proactive use of their benefit plans through their wellness subsidy and paramedical services such as massage and naturopathic medicine.
While MARS has been blessed with a relatively younger workforce it is no accident that they have low health care costs. Ken however continues to keep a close eye on his team especially as incremental work is showing signs of stress particularly with his up and coming leaders who have young families. Meditation at work and a term they have coined ‘Work Out’; working smarter, not harder, are initiatives he hopes to focus on in the upcoming year.
Ken believes that a state of wellbeing is dynamic and needs constant attention and focus. Ken’s advice to other leaders looking to adopt a wellness strategy; ensure you have commitment from the executive team; tailor the program to your organization based on company values and principals, link your wellness strategy to your talent strategy; and find great partners to bring best in class thinking and to keep the program sustainable.