Global firms to make workforce health priority: Survey

Wellness programs gaining popularity
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 05/20/2011

Faced with rising health-care costs and a growing concern over the health of their employees, the majority of multinational organizations plan to place a higher priority on workforce health initiatives and the overall well-being of their workers over the next few years, according to a new survey by Towers Watson.

Seventy-five per cent of the 149 employers surveyed worldwide said workforce health and promoting health and well-being will be more of a priority this year and next, while 87 per cent said it will be a higher priority over the next two to four years.

To address this growing priority, nearly one-half of respondents (47 per cent) plan to implement a global workforce health strategy over the next two years. Less than one-third (32 per cent) of survey respondents said their organizations have a global workforce health strategy in place.

“Given the variety of health systems and market practices around the world, and the significant differences in costs for employers to sponsor health plans, the need for a global workforce health strategy has never been greater,” said Francis Coleman, a senior international consultant at Towers Watson. “Multinationals with a clear strategy can better co-ordinate local health activities to improve their overall workforce health and increase the efficiency of their total spending on health care.”

When asked to rank the three most important objectives for their health strategy, more than one-half (54 per cent) of respondents said it was to demonstrate their continued interest in employee well-being, resiliency and stress management, while 52 per cent said it was to help control rising health-care costs.

Wellness programs gaining popularity

Seventy-five per cent of survey respondents said they offer a wellness program, which can include preventive care, health screenings or education. And these programs have been growing in popularity over the past few years, found the survey.

“To get full value from health and wellness programs, multinational employers should clearly define the role wellness and health and productivity programs will play in their global health strategy and in their overall business strategy,” said Nicole Serfontein, a senior international consultant at Towers Watson. “If an organization is in an industry that competes for talent, for example, its approach to health — especially in some regions — could be a factor in attracting and retaining employees.”

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