Leader Involvement in Physical Wellness Programs Improves Participation and Cost Savings

The 2018 Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Scorecard Progress Report also found offering targeted lifestyle management services and having a formal, written strategic plan in place for well-being improve physical wellness program outcomes.

Findings derived from the 2018 Progress Report for the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Health and Well-being Best Practices Scorecard in Collaboration with Mercer show that well-being initiatives fare better when leaders are visibly supportive and involved.

In particular, companies reported better outcomes when leaders recognize employees who have achieved success and when leaders actively participate in health and well-being initiatives themselves—two relatively simple and low-cost ways to boost performance.

One study found that the practice most associated with higher participation rates is the presence of leadership that publicly recognizes employees for their wellness efforts and achievements. Such organizations report an average health assessment completion rate of 61% of eligible employees, compared to just 48% for organizations in which leaders do not recognize employees.

Another study looked at just organizations with high-scoring programs (the top quartile of overall best-practice scores) and found that companies in which leaders recognized employees for their healthy actions and outcomes were more likely to report that their well-being initiatives have resulted in measurable improvement both in population health (91%) and medical plan cost (87%) than the companies not recognizing employee success (83% and 81%, respectively).

A third study found that organizations whose leaders actively participate in health and well-being initiatives reported higher median rates of both employee satisfaction with health and well-being programs (83%) and employee perception of organizational support (85%) compared to organizations whose leaders did not actively participate (66% and 67%, respectively).

“These findings suggest organizations that want to improve employee well-being and impact spending should consider how they can bolster organizational support and leadership involvement in day-to-day well-being activities,” says Steven Noeldner, Senior Total Health Management Consultant, Mercer. “Even if you have an established, comprehensive program, a perceived lack of leadership support could prevent employees from participating and benefiting from these initiatives. Leadership support costs very little to implement and can be as simple as celebrating employee efforts or sharing personal well-being goals and practices.”

The 2018 Scorecard Progress Report also found there is a higher prevalence of reported health improvement in organizations that offer targeted lifestyle management services than in those that do not (29% vs. 9%). The results are similar when looking at medical cost trend (36% when targeted services are present vs. 10% when they are not).

When employers offer financial incentives, 72% of employees report satisfaction with well-being initiatives, compared to 66% when employers do not offer incentives.

In addition, 56% of employers have a formal, written strategic plan in place for well-being. These employers report better outcomes on health improvement and medical trend than those that do not.