Employee wellness is important to organisational success, but a strategic and integrated approach to wellness is critical: PwC analysis

South Africa’s employers recognise the benefits of investing in the wellness of their employees. A high proportion of employers across a broad spectrum of industries feel that the wellness benefits they offer are appreciated by their employees, positively impact their health and well-being and create long-term value for the organisation, according to research performed by PwC.

Barry Vorster, PwC Leader of People & Change, says: “In our experience globally, CEOs and other C-suite executives are becoming more aware of the impact of wellness and its benefits on the business as a whole, allowing wellness to become recognised as an increasingly strategic issue. C-suite support for wellness initiatives is essential to their success.”

Increasingly, research suggests that employers can reduce costs by investing in the health and well-being of their employees. This includes both the direct costs of providing healthcare and indirect costs, such as absenteeism and reduced productivity.

The analysis provides PwC’s point of view on leading practice to ensure that maximum value is added through investments in employees’ wellness.

According to the analysis, the success of such initiatives depends on the following five factors:

  • The organisation’s objectives;
  • Whether there is a strategic and integrated approach to wellness;
  • The quality of analysis performed to identify and prioritise issues and interventions;
  • The effectiveness of implementation; and
  • Whether there is appropriate measurement and monitoring of outcomes, and regular review of interventions.

The organisation’s objectives

Many employers recognise the wider potential benefits of investing in wellness, and have used it to promote the achievement of other important objectives. For example, investing in wellness can lead to, amongst other things, improving employee engagement and building individual resilience; strengthening the employee value proposition to attract and retain the best talent; and building the organisation’s reputation and brand.

Vorster adds: “Employees who enjoy higher levels of well-being are likely to be more engaged, as are those who believe that their employer cares for their well-being. An employer’s efforts to engage can also influence well-being. We recommend viewing wellness as an integral part of employee engagement.”

A strategic and integrated approach to wellness

There should be a clear strategy for investing in wellness, including clearly-defined objectives, which is consistent with the overall strategy and values of the organisation, states the analysis. In addition, it should be based on a clear and thorough understanding of the health and wellness profile of the particular organisation.

Although wellness is usually considered to fall under the auspices of the HR department, a number of other departments also have an interest in, or are involved or responsible for various aspects of wellness. Adopting an integrated approach means the strategy covers all these areas and the roles of each in implementing and monitoring the outcomes are clearly defined.

Expert analysis to identify and prioritise issues and interventions

Employers are in a unique position to investigate the health needs of their employees and to develop interventions and initiatives which aim to maximise the impact both on employees' well-being, but also on the companies' healthcare costs, productivity and long-term value of human capital.

The analysis suggests that data analytics and actuarial modelling can be powerful tools in providing a clear and more complete picture of the direct and indirect health-related costs, and current and future risks, to which an organisation is exposed. This can assist in identifying sources of total costs, drivers of cost increases and particular issues to be targeted.

Nanie Rothman, an Associate Director in PwC’s Actuarial, Risk and Quants Division, says: “In our view, many local employers could be making smarter use of data. This can be done by combining data from multiple sources to better understand their health risk profile, including current and potential future wellness issues and costs, and the potential value of investment in wellness.”

Duplication of services or gaps in needed benefits or interventions can sometimes occur, especially where there is not an integrated, but rather fragmented or siloed, approach to wellness.

Effective implementation of wellness initiatives

The key to a successful healthcare system usually relies on there being a sufficient focus on prevention and proactiveness to ensure that the impact of chronic and lifestyle-related diseases is minimised. This in turn, depends on educating, empowering and encouraging individuals to manage their own health and well-being, as well as making use of preventative and disease management services.

Driving behavioural change is therefore likely to be critical to the success of a wellness programme. Implementation aspects such as change management and communication should not be overlooked and it is often necessary to empower and motivate managers to support employees to participate in wellness programmes, as well as to ensure better communication and management of stress within their teams.

Wearable technology holds significant potential to strengthen the capabilities of employers to change behaviour, as well as provide a means for collecting data which can be used in modelling to determine the priority needs and interventions. A survey of over 2,000 working adults in the UK showed that 44% would be happy to use a piece of wearable technology provided by their employer and allow the employer to collect data from it, but this increases to 60% amongst 18 – 34 year olds. This rises to 56% and 70%, respectively if there are benefits for the individual.

PwC is now conducting a survey in South Africa to gauge whether local employees feel similarly or are more or less open to the idea of employer-provided wearables. The survey can be accessed at http://ow.ly/OFo5Z.

Comprehensive measurement and mentoring of outcomes

Organisations with successful wellness programmes usually have processes in place to monitor the utilisation of benefits and services and wellness outcomes, allowing regular evaluation and review of the wellness strategy and its implementation.

“We believe more South African employers could perform regular monitoring and review of their wellness programmes to support them in making improvements to achieve their objectives,” concludes Rothman.

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Sanchia Temkin

Senior Manager, Media Relations, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 4470

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