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Global Study: Health-Promotion Increases Employee Commitment

By Stephen Miller, CEBS  11/6/2013
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In the U.S. more than half the adult population has more than one chronic condition. In Russia 20 percent of the population suffers from hypertension. In Mexico the overweight population has risen to 68 percent.

Driving Employee Engagement, Commitment and Work Ability around the World, a study report by the MAXIS Global Benefits Network in conjunction with the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, found that while employees place a high value on workplace health and wellness benefits, only 35 percent of respondents in 11 countries are satisfied with the programs their employer offers. Further, employees who are strongly dissatisfied with these benefits work at about 55 percent of their “maximum” commitment level.

For the study, the Sloan Center gathered information from 11,298 employees at seven large-cap, multinational companies in 11 countries: Botswana, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. The industries represented were technology, pharmaceutical, consulting, energy and finance.

The report indicates that the gap between the importance that workers attach to health and wellness benefits and their satisfaction with their benefits is greatest for those in developing countries such as Brazil, India and Mexico, for those self-reporting poorer health and for Millennials.

What Employers Can Do

Overall, employees’ lack of satisfaction with their health and wellness benefits provides two distinct opportunities for companies, according to the report:

  • Take steps to increase satisfaction levels, particularly among groups reporting lower levels of satisfaction. If there is a single consistent finding, it’s “one size does not fit all.” Seeking input from a wide range of stakeholders during the design, implementation, and review of health and wellness benefits will provide valuable insight on what’s working and what’s missing the mark.

    Consider the interests, habits, available time, attitudes toward health and fitness, and cultural norms of key populations. Test different programming and communication approaches, and observe what drives participation. Programming and resources don’t have to be expensive, but their relevance to the audience is key.

  • Find ways to boost supervisor support.In addition to bottom-up engagement, top-down commitment at all levels of the organization is critical to the success of a health and wellness strategy. Employees should believe that management supports their efforts to manage their own health.

    A supervisory culture that takes accountability for employee engagement will pay dividends. Consider building supervisor awareness of the value of wellness-promotion efforts and conveying the importance of management’s support of health and wellness initiatives.

“Around the world, global risk managers at multinational companies are increasingly seeing the importance of health and wellness programs as ways to not only focus on the health of their employees but to improve business outcomes,” Jim Peiffer, senior vice president for global employee benefits at MetLife and general manager for the MAXIS Global Benefits Network, told SHRM Online. “There is growing evidence that health and wellness programs generate significant savings, increase on-the-job productivity, reduce absenteeism and improve employee engagement,” he noted.

“Today many multinational corporations have health and wellness programs in the various markets where they operate, but a much lower percentage have a global health and wellness strategy, and even fewer have linked their global strategy to local market initiatives,” Peiffer added. “The strategy should be driven by data and include culturally adapted, market-appropriate solutions.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Health Culture Improves Employee Performance, SHRM Online Benefits, September 2013

Multinationals Adjust Health Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, May 2011

Multinationals Lack Health/Productivity Strategies Outside the U.S., SHRM Online Benefits, Jne 2006

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits page

SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page

SHRM Online Wellness Programs Resource Page 

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