Connect Programs and Policies to Business Goals

connect-programsTo ensure the longevity and success of your program, you must show leaders a clear and compelling connection between the health of your employees and your company’s overall business goals.10 Profitability is an extremely important goal of any business, and it can be tied directly to employee health because “people produce profit.”10 Employees are responsible for innovation, product development and services, all of which produce profit. Unhealthy and absent employees detract from the profitability of your business. For example, one study found moderately or extremely obese workers experienced a 4.2 percent health-related loss in productivity, which equated to an additional $506 in lost productivity per worker per year, and another study estimated that the indirect costs of lost productivity can be between two and three times the value of direct medical costs.10–12 Employee health also directly impacts corporate financial performance by changing health insurance costs: employees with preventable health risks (such as smoking, extremely high body weight or high blood pressure) have much higher healthcare expenditures than people without those risk factors,13,14 and employees and businesses end up bearing the brunt of these cost increases.15 Fortunately, research has shown that high quality workplace health promotion programs produce a positive return on investment, or cost-benefit ratio.16–20 While specific estimates of the return on investment (ROI) vary, they are often between $1.20 and $3.27 per dollar invested.10,16,21,22 Other studies have found that wellness programs reduce average healthcare costs by about $30 per member per month.23 In order to calculate your own return on investment, you should (1) identify the diseases and conditions that are driving healthcare costs, (2) determine the prevalence of those conditions in your workforce, (3) calculate how much those conditions are costing your business and (4) quantify potential cost savings if effective health management programs are in place.10 The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and the Population Health Alliance have developed a guide that can help you calculate a program’s ROI or value-on-investment (VOI), and you can also hire health analytics companies to help you do so. Then, present your findings to senior leadership to demonstrate how employee health is directly tied to company success. Keep in mind that wellness programs may provide value beyond what shows up in direct ROI calculations, such as in employee attraction and retention, improved morale, increased likelihood of achieving safety targets and enhanced company loyalty.10,16

While profitability is always a core business objective, it is often not the sole objective. Your company may offer wellness and other benefits to employees simply because it is the right thing to do. It may be helpful to present these arguments for the workplace wellness program to middle managers, who spend more time interacting directly with employees, so they understand that employee health is a goal in its own right.10 These non-monetary objectives can be incorporated into core business objectives by adding specific goals about employee health into the organization’s overall mission and vision statements.4