New research shows improvements to employee well-being drive up customer satisfaction, retention—even company profits.
By Stephanie J Pronk
A decade ago, the value of wellness programs was touted by demonstrating how employee medical claims could decrease by encouraging healthy behavior and preventative care. Maintaining a healthy and resilient workforce continues to be a priority, especially now that employers must navigate through strategic and operational issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a tense political climate, and growing calls for social justice.
Today, employers are seeking different returns from their wellness investments. They want to know these programs benefit their businesses’ bottom line. Aon’s 2021 Global Well-being Survey found that improvements to employees’ wellness have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and retention. In fact, organizations that improve employee well-being by 3% see a 1% increase in customer satisfaction and retention. Organizations that improve employee well being by even more—3.5%— experience a 1% increase in employee satisfaction and customer acquisition. And if organizations can improve employee well-being by 4%, they will achieve a 1% increase in company profit and a 1% decrease in employee turnover.
Although a high percentage of the companies surveyed said employee well-being and resilience are important and they have initiatives in place, few have embedded wellness into their overall business and talent strategies. The survey cited globally, 82% of companies said employee well being is important, and although 87% have at least one initiative in place, only 55% have a dedicated strategy. In addition, just 24% of companies fully integrate well-being into their business and talent strategy.
In the U.S., the numbers are similar: 81% of companies reported employee well-being as important and 88% say they have at least one initiative, but only 53% said they have a strategy in place and 21% fully integrate it into their business and talent strategy. Some good news: The programs themselves are well-received, with 29% performing exceptionally and 62% meeting expectations.
Wellness initiatives provide the most value when aligned with a comprehensive strategy; a series of standalone programs have less impact. If organizations don’t consider the well-being of their employees, they face significant risk, including decreased productivity, time away from work, and lower retention rates.
The impact of the global pandemic, social unrest, and a changing economy has highlighted the importance of emotional wellness. The top conditions impacting company performance in the U.S. are stress (65%), musculoskeletal issues (40%), burnout (40%), and anxiety (40%). Work-life balance and mental health were the top well-being issues in the U.S. by a considerable margin, chosen by 61% of respondents. This was followed by working environment and company culture (both 47%) and burnout at 43%.
Beyond financial resources and investment, one of the biggest challenges to starting or expanding well-being initiatives is employee engagement and interest, with 42% of survey participants agreeing. Leadership is key in setting the tone for culture and well-being, with 89% of companies surveyed agreeing that the CHRO is the biggest supporter of these initiatives, followed by the CEO (78%). Leadership support and buy-in are critical factors in creating a culture and well-being strategy that can positively impact workforce resilience and overall company performance.
Stephanie J. Pronk is the senior vice president and U.S. health transformation team leader for Aon.