Devoting resources to employee health can yield rewards for organisations by improving worker performance, engagement and retention, a new study shows.
While many organisations feel there is a link between improved employee health and workplace performance, Australian Unity, and global professional services firm, Towers Watson, have put hard numbers behind the intuition.
The research found that over the duration of a six month coaching program provided by Remedy Healthcare, employees within a high risk intervention group improved in both biometric health and lifestyle factors, compared to the high risk control group who tended to improve in lifestyle factors only[i].
High risk intervention group employees also said they were more likely to remain at the organisation. Healthier employees from the onset, meanwhile, were two times more likely to be rated a high performer by their manager.
Summary of Findings
In the high risk intervention group there was a 14 percent reduction in the number of employees at high risk of developing diabetes compared to a four percent reduction in the high risk control group over a six month period.
The high risk intervention group saw a four percent increase in the number of people who received a higher than average performance rating, compared to a five percent decrease in the high risk control group.
One of the strongest positive outcomes for the organisation was in the retention metric—the high risk intervention group returned a 14 percent decrease in the intention to leave the organisation, which has direct cost savings and knowledge retention benefits for the organisation. Intentions to leave did not shift for the high risk control group.
The high risk intervention group also reported the most positive shifts in employee engagement compared to the high risk control group.
Employees in the low risk control group, who had better health, were two times more likely to be rated a high performer by their manager than those in the high risk intervention or control group.
David Bowering, Culture and Capability Manager of Human Resources at Australian Unity says the evidence supports the research hypothesis that an investment in employee health pays off by way of commercial workforce metrics.
“We wanted to create evidence from our own workforce to measure the impact a quality employee health program can have, both in the health and lifestyle benefits for employees, and performance benefits for the business,” Mr Bowering said.
“Leaders get exposed to a lot of literature on the topic, and some make pretty big claims on intangible benefits that can actually confuse the issue when making commercial decisions. We felt Australian Unity is well placed to make a meaningful contribution to the question: Is there value in health and wellbeing programs in the workplace beyond the nice-to-have?
“The differentiating factor in this workplace health and performance research is in the methodology. We created a single data set that includes biometric health data and lifestyle behaviours, wellbeing and change readiness, plus performance metrics.
“We then measured change in these factors over time, which gives our business a sense of soundness in the decision making process when considering an investment in employee health programs.”
Employees in the high risk intervention group were supported one-on-one by a qualified health coach who first understood their health situation, and then devised a tailored six month telephone coaching program.
The “Wellbeing for Performance Report” by Australian Unity and research partner Towers Watson can be accessed online at: australianunity.com.au/about-us/Wellbeing/Wellbeing-for-Performance
[i]Australian Unity engaged global professional services firm, Towers Watson to validate the research approach as well as ensure arm’s length analysis of the results. From a sample size of 461 employees, three groups were created based on the completion of a health risk assessment, survey and biometric reading. High health risk employees were either offered a Remedy Healthcare program or formed part of a high risk control group. Low health risk individuals formed a low risk control group. Risk status was based on performance against modifiable health risk factors which included amongst others alcohol intake, blood pressure, cholesterol, diet, weight and physical activity. At the completion of the Remedy program, both high risk intervention participants and control group participants repeated the health risk assessment, survey and biometric reading.
About Australian Unity
Australian Unity is a national healthcare, financial services and retirement living organisation providing services to more than three quarters of a million Australians, including more than 300,000 members nationwide. Australian Unity’s history as a trusted mutual organisation dates back almost 175 years. It has grown organically—by continually evolving and providing the services and products needed by the communities it serves—as well as through successful strategic mergers and diversification into new business activities.
About Remedy Healthcare
Remedy Healthcare is a leading provider of highly targeted, evidence-based, care co-ordination, home-based rehabilitation and health coaching programs. Services are available to corporates, public and private healthcare organisations, aged care and individuals across Australia.
About Towers Watson
Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organisations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. With 15,000 associates around the world, the company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Learn more at towerswatson.com