Many employers do not know, or are unable to measure, the extent to which their workforce faces health issues, according to Towers Watson’s latest Health, Wellbeing and Productivity survey.
In the global survey three-quarters of employers said stress or work-life balance are issues for their staff but around half do not know if nutrition, obesity, smoking or physical exercise is affecting their employees.
“A strategic focus, whereby programmes and spend are targeted at key issues, is largely missing," says Rebekah Haymes, senior consultant at Towers Watson. "In such circumstances, how can companies truly understand the payback on their health and wellbeing programmes and their sustainability?"
Haymes notes there are opportunities for employers to better measure the links between their health and wellbeing programmes and employee productivity. "It starts by being able to access the degree to which the workforce is affected by health issues."
Haymes adds that organisations that understand these factors can design and deliver health and wellbeing programmes that target the risk factors that are important for their business and are best suited to their employees’ wants and needs. "Employers then have the opportunity to better tailor their programmes and deliver improved value for money to the business.”
The Towers Watson survey also shows that companies have very little focus on quantifying the value and return on investment associated with their health and wellbeing programmes with few tracking programme outcomes and measure against targets, while even fewer seek to link to improved worker behaviours and employee productivity. At the same time; contemporaneous research finds a strong association between effective health and wellbeing programmes and financial results.
Rebekah Haymes said: “A global Towers Watson healthcare study asserts that organisations with effective health and wellbeing strategies report lower costs (fewer lost days due to unplanned absences and reductions in some health risks) and are found to have higher revenue per employee. Companies with an engaged workforce and high wellbeing experience operating margins almost three times higher than companies with low engagement.
“It is questionable how sustainable programmes can be in the long term without evidence available on their efficacy and value to the business. Financial returns cannot easily be achieved over a short period of time; however, employers can measure drivers of business performance such as benefit costs, absence, engagement, and worker effectiveness. Once employers know this, they can start to measure the business benefits associated with their health and wellbeing programmes.”