Employers can greatly improve their employee health and wellness management programs’ chances of success by recognizing the relationships between workforce health, productivity and overall corporate performance, several experts say.
Management of employee health and productivity has evolved substantially in recent years, Thomas Parry, president of the San Francisco-based Integrated Benefits Institute, said at the 2013 IBI/NBCH Health & Productivity Forum late last month.
However, too many employers still rely on health costs as the sole success metric of their investment in employees’ health and well-being, he said at the forum, which was sponsored by the IBI and National Business Coalition on Health.
“It’s not that cost isn’t important, but it strikes me that we often miss one of the key aspects of health,” Mr. Parry said during the Feb 25-27 forum in Dallas. “Health and all of its dimensions influence the ability of the company to be successful through its people. That’s how health and human capital drive business performance.”
About 350 people attended the forum.
Sam Gilliland, chairman and CEO of Southlake, Texas-based Sabre Holdings Corp., said during a keynote speech that the travel technology company spent years investing in wellness and other programs designed to lower health care costs, but with little success. That was until 2004, when the company focused on addressing chronic health and productivity risks.
“Today, our first focus is on the health of our people, knowing that cost savings will inevitably come when we can make a lasting impact in our employees’ lives, and the results have been pretty awesome,” Mr. Gilliland said, noting significant year-over-year reductions in heart disease, diabetes and stroke risk factors since 2004 among a sample group of approximately 200 employees.
Many forum sessions focused on the difficulty many employers face in measuring total returns on their investments in health and productivity management programs. A 2012 IBI survey of employers found that while 89% of C-suite executives recognized the value of data that shows the impact of employee health on workplace performance or quality and 82% would benefit from return-on-investment calculations from health risk interventions, some 67% said that information has been unavailable to them.
Donna Cornwell, human resources director at Birmingham, Ala.-based O’Neal Steel Inc., said during a panel discussion that the family-owned company revamped its wellness program in 2011 to add data collection from health risk assessments and biometric screenings, as well as medical, pharmacy, workers compensation and disability claims.
Since then, Ms. Cornwell said the company has gained a much clearer view of its health management successes and failures, as well as a valuable means to communicate the program’s progress toward short- and long-term goals to senior management.
“We’ve seen percentage im-provements in all of these areas in just one year,” Ms. Cornwell said. “We have a lot of employees that are getting out and exercising more, and we’re on target for our goals in blood glucose levels and participation.”
Copyright © 2013. Crain Communications, Inc.