Workforce Health a Higher Priority for Multinationals

May 16, 2011 ( - Faced with rising health care costs and a growing concern over the health of their employees, a vast 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.

The survey also found that wellness programs have become prevalent worldwide as more multinationals promote health and well-being.  

Three out of four companies said workforce health and promoting health and well-being will be more of a priority this year and next, while 87% said it will be a higher priority over the next two to four years. To address this growing priority, nearly half of the respondents (47%) plan to implement a global workforce health strategy over the next two years. Currently, less than one-third (32%) of multinationals have a global workforce health strategy in place. 

When asked to rank the three most important objectives for their health strategy, more than half (54%) of respondents said it is to demonstrate their continued interest in employee well-being, resiliency and stress management, while slightly fewer (52%) said it is to help control rising health costs. There were, however, significant differences by regions. More than two-thirds (69%) of multinationals headquartered in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region ranked employee well-being and stress management in the top three; 62% of Asia-headquartered respondents ranked providing competitive rewards among the top three objectives; and 59% of North American companies – primarily U.S.-based – listed controlling costs in the top three.  

According to a press release, overall, three in four (75%) multinationals currently 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. The one exception can be found among Asia-headquartered multinationals where only 62% of employers offer a wellness program.   

Other survey findings include: 

  • Companies that have a health strategy are not sharing it broadly with employees. Only 13% of respondents say they’ve explained their strategy to their entire global workforce.  
  • In the next three years, multinationals will rely increasingly on more global governance of their health care benefit programs. Data management, third-party vendor support and offering of prevention and wellness programs are the areas most likely to come under some type of global governance at respondent organizations. 


The Towers Watson Workforce Health Strategies: A Multinational Perspective survey was conducted in early 2011 and includes responses from 149 multinational corporations representing a total workforce of 5.2 million people. Copies of the survey report are available at