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Employers See Wellness Link to Productivity, Performance

Wellness 'value proposition' includes higher engagement and morale, and lower turnover

More than 90 percent of business leaders say that promoting wellness can affect employee productivity and performance, according to survey results from the nonprofit Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO).

The February 2015 survey report, Exploring the value Proposition for Workforce Health, evaluates how employers see a healthy workforce influencing morale, engagement and overall corporate performance. The findings are based on a survey completed between May and July 2014 by more than 500 business leaders from across the U.S., from a variety of industries and company sizes.

Productivity and performance are related but different concepts, according to business leaders. Generally, productivity refers to the quantity of work while performance denotes the quality of work. Among survey respondents, 47 percent said that performance is more important while 15 percent said productivity is more important.

There were also nuances in the drivers of productivity and performance identified by business leaders. Having the right tools to do one’s job was listed as the top driver of productivity, while employee engagement with their work was the top driver of performance.

When business leaders were asked directly about the top organizational priorities influenced by employee health, they most often listed productivity and performance.

Top Business Priorities Influenced by Health

(Percent of business leaders who cited each factor)





Employee engagement or morale


Benefits cost reduction




Source: Health Enhancement Research Organization

Beyond Cost-Savings

Most business leaders (57 percent) also said their organizations viewed health as an investment in human capital or as part of the organization’s core business strategy. Less than a third saw investments in health primarily as a health care cost-containment strategy (30 percent), and fewer still as an expense (13 percent). “This finding is important because it recognizes growing support for a broader value proposition for investment in workforce health and wellbeing,” the report states.

“For several years now, we have seen companies of all sizes increasing their investment in employee health through workplace health management programs,” said Jessica Grossmeier, vice president of research at HERO. “While this movement is most commonly connected to a desire to control health care costs, our interactions with employers led us to believe that there was more at play here and that employers were realizing greater, long-term value from good employee health.”

In another key finding, responses differentiated by leadership positions revealed that executive leaders are more likely than middle managers to say that health influences performance.

“A company’s executive leaders can believe in the importance of good health as it relates to performance on and off the job, but if the front-line managers don’t share this belief or if the work environment isn’t supportive of healthy behaviors, then companies will fail to see the results and long-term benefits on their bottom line,” added Nikki Hudsmith, vice president of operations at consultancy Performance pH and co-author of the survey.


Based on the findings, the report advises organizations to pursuing a broader value proposition for workplace health promotion and to consider how workforce health programs are positioned within an organization, and why.

“Many times senior business leaders turn to workforce initiatives in an effort to control health care costs. While there is research evidence to support this positioning, there is also evidence supporting a broader value proposition such as increased productivity and performance, higher engagement and morale, and lower turnover rates,” the report states.

Moreover, “As organizations broaden their business case and evaluation strategies they may also need to expand the focus of their programs to include social, financial, spiritual and mental wellbeing.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.


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