The Art and Science of Change

How Deanna Siegel Senior is shaping a culture of impact at WW

Photo: Peter Garritano

After almost two decades influencing the culture of some of the world’s most iconic brands—Pfizer, Deloitte, and Tiffany & Co. to name a few—today, Deanna Siegel Senior is utilizing her experience to bring change to another household name. The changemaker is applying world-class talent strategies cultivated at these industry giants to transform the world’s leading commercial weight-management program and global partner for wellness, WW, the contemporary iteration of the billion-dollar enterprise Weight Watchers International, Inc.

WW looks for candidates to help change people’s lives. “Most of our recruitment efforts these days are in the tech space,” says Siegel Senior, vice president of talent and organizational development at WW. “To become the world’s partner in wellness, we’re evolving the experience we offer our members. And to do that, we need to add to our talent pipeline, different skill sets, and areas of expertise. Today some of the open positions at WW include software engineers and scrum-masters. I feel I have a great responsibility to bring in cutting-edge talent that exudes passion for our purpose; to develop and nurture these extraordinary individuals; and to make sure we’re creating a culture that reflects our purpose and represents the best of our heritage and reflects where we are going as a company and as a brand.”

Deanna Siegal Senior WW
Deanna Siegel Senior, WWPhoto: Peter Garritano

Since its founding in 1963, WW has spread across eleven countries to deliver nutrition and lifestyle solutions for its roughly 4.5 million members. “We ask the question, ‘What is your why?’” Siegel Senior says. “It used to be to lose weight, but now there is a shift to being healthy. Losing weight may be an important part of that, but there’s so much more.”

In a reflection of this evolution to focus on overall health and well-being, in addition to weight management, the company announced on September 24, 2018 that it would become WW and add the tagline “Wellness that Works.” Of the new tagline, Siegel Senior notes that it speaks to the efficacy of the program. “Not everybody has the opportunity to impact lives the way WW does, and our tagline is a promise we make to people that no matter what their goals are, we will be their partner, bringing them science-based solutions that work.”

WW works with celebrity brand ambassadors such as Oprah Winfrey, DJ Khaled, and actor Kevin Smith, to better connect with the members it serves and to connect with new communities. It also focuses on the digital experience for members, with enhanced tools for activity tracking and community building.

With this new external promise, Siegel Senior and the people team have been focused on enhancing the internal culture by staying true to the spirit of the company’s culture and connecting to the brand’s evolution into a global wellness company. To do so, she guides the employee life cycle with the vision of holistic health, well-being, and innovation front of mind.

Internal WW investments include the launch of Workplace by Facebook to connect and give voice to WW’s 18,000 global employees. Through this platform, Siegel Senior launched a series called WW Inspire which includes engaging content comprising presentations and fireside chats hosted by CEO Mindy Grossman and other WW executives. The series features authors, scientists in the health tech space, and social psychologists who help bring the internal community together and focus on WW’s purpose and its employees.

Siegel Senior’s team also created Impact Behaviors (“Stay curious”, “Act boldly”, “Win together”, and “Make a difference”) to guide WW employees to embody the principles of the company’s Impact Manifesto. It outlines “the unique promises we make to all we serve and their focus on personalization, science-based habits, and community building. Our impact behaviors outline the specifics,” Siegel Senior says. She also launched WW’s Career and Impact Conversations globally, a program in which employees and managers engage in meaningful career development discussions as well as focus on the impact they’re having on the business through two-way feedback conversations.

“The opportunities now at WW are numerous and exciting. We are creating a modern community-based environment for our team that’s reflective of our brand,” Siegel Senior says. “To integrate and unify WW inside and out is a huge part of my role.”

Deanna Siegal Senior WW
Photo: Peter Garritano

Siegel Senior arrived at WW in December 2017 to channel her expertise in organizational strategy to deliver this new mission—one that reenergizes the employee value proposition for the 18,000-person global workforce. “I’ve always had a passion for why people choose the work that they do, what draws them to the company that they work for, and what makes them stay,” she says.

Her career began at Big Four accounting firm Deloitte after she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science at the University of Michigan. After, she pursued a PhD in organizational psychology from Columbia University, her dissertation focused on corporate volunteerism. She spent the following four years advising biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer. “At Pfizer, I learned the critical importance of corporate social responsibility and attaching meaning to work,” says Siegel Senior, who led the South Asian Earthquake Relief Fund project there.

Then in 2006, she joined Tiffany & Co. as manager of organizational effectiveness. It was at Tiffany where she spent the next decade rising through the ranks of the luxury jewelry retailer, before becoming the vice president of global organizational effectiveness, talent management, and leadership development. In this role, she created cultural values for the senior leadership team and her team designed a global leadership excellence and diversity job rotation program. She’s applied the lessons she learned there to create a brand-led culture for the global workforce of corporate and studio employees at WW.

Healthy Habits to All

Last June, WW launched its “Summer of Impact” initiatives. It included a global social impact campaign, WW Good, which featured six festivals throughout North America and a global hashtag campaign to support wellness journeys in underserved communities. The events gathered nearly 8,000 attendees, 70 percent being non-WW members, and provided healthy meals to 12,000 local families in need, in addition to donating 15,000 pounds of fresh food to local food banks. “It introduced WW to new audiences, and is just the start of how we can bring healthy habits to all,” Deanna Siegel Senior says.

Siegel Senior also cites her mother, a learning and development executive at IBM for twenty years, as a mentor and the inspiration behind her own career in a similar space. Senior recalls the start-up-like energy at WW when she first walked through the door for the interview and soon felt compelled to team up with CEO Mindy Grossman and Chief People Officer Kimberly Samon.

“As a working mom of three kids, these women are mentors to me and inspire my work every day,” Siegel Senior says. “And our purpose truly drives me. I’m proud of the fact that we’re helping people change their lives by building healthy habits.”

WW recently launched a suite of new innovative experiences to support members on their journeys. In October 2018, WW launched WellnessWins, a rewards program in which members earn “wins” for engaging in healthy habits that can be redeemed for exclusive products, services, and experiences designed to inspire their wellness journeys. “It’s different because we’re not rewarding people for money they spend on our program; it’s rewarding the habits that we know will make them successful,” Siegel Senior says.

Following the same principle, Siegel Senior and team are designing an employee recognition program that rewards employees for demonstrating the newly launched Impact Behaviors. “Our internal culture should align with our brand. How we show up externally is deeply connected to our employee experience.”   

Internally, Siegel Senior focuses on individual development, cross-functional teams, and employs cross-regional surveys, focus group interviews, and robust senior leader involvement to determine what aspects of the WW culture must stay and what it needs to evolve to as a technology experience company. Looking ahead, she aims to continue building an authentic, altruistic, and impactful team as WW increasingly integrates in people’s lives as a true partner in wellness.

“I feel like I’m at a start-up, but with fifty-seven years of powerful heritage and the resources of a big brand,” Siegel Senior says. “By drawing on over five decades of experience and expertise in behavioral science, we build communities in order to deliver wellness for all. The idea of inspiring healthy habits for real life—for people, families, communities, the world, for everyone—makes it a very exciting place to be, and my family is as proud as I am that I chose to work for WW.”