Issues for Healthy Employees and Healthy Corporations

In the plenary session, Healthy Employees.Healthy Corporations, health care experts discussed the major issues related to the corporation’s role in employee health across the globe. Common to all were issues of employee absenteeism and presenteesim as well as cost.

For Professor Elizabeth Teisberg of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in the United States, absenteeism, early retirement, sickness, and presenteeism are important issues for health management. Costs are key, and the question is what do we get for the money we spend on healthcare? We need to change available services and have different services, but employees can’t wait for the governments or their employers to solve the problem.

Dr. Alberto Jose Ogata, President of the Brazilian Quality of Life Association says that in his country, productivity and absenteeism are the key issues. He cites the World Health Care Program as an example everyone should use. The program is about a safe place to work, a psycho-social place, a personal work, and social responsibility.

Mr. Axel Baur, Senior Partner of McKinsey and Company’s Tokyo office cited three key issues for health management: absenteeism, presenteeism and the actual costs of medical care. What we need is a comprehensive health program that gives a positive ROI. Outcomes are also essential to think of when we talk about health management. In a McKinsey’s study, they found much better effects than what was thought, when companies implemented wellness programs. Moreover, they saw results on direct costs within 16 months whereas companies usually think they won’t see the effects of their efforts before 3-5 years.Last but not least, it was noted that corporations should use the power that they have to communicate about health and well-being to their employees. McKinsey learned in their research that in addition, communicating beyond the employee to the family is essential to get a success with the programs.

An audience member asked how we would make companies realize health management is important. We need to have a business manager in those health programs; incentives are not enough. If you want to attract young talents today, it’s important to think about well-being at work.

Another audience member said that raising healthcare cost is not a new issue and asked for suggestions to improve the situation. We need programs to provide support to these issues. It’s key to measure a portfolio of options.

A question was raised in the audience about the payers. In the USA, as direct payers, companies can change the care delivery model. Whereas, in Europe, one has to work through the government, and progress is very slow. Therefore, we have to change the care delivery model.

An audience member asked about the role of pure health issues and psychosomatic issues because he felt it’s funny to notice that they are more psychosomatic issues in the finance industry than in manufacturing. It was suggested that banking companies will have to change their operating mode of working 24/7. Companies’ health programs will then be complementary.

All of this discussion means for business students as future leaders that employees’ health will be in our daily menu tomorrow. There is no need to leave this issue aside because it won’t get better in the future. Leaders have to think about it and then implement a strategy to tackle it. There are solutions but the hardest task is to find the reasons why we would start to think about it. My opinion is that this issue is definitely an important one both for employees and for the good development of a company. The next more important step is to get more employers aware. We heard some really nice examples of what is done by companies across the world but the percentage of employers with this understanding needs to increase. The fact that drew my attention concerned the poor existence of a well-being program in our business schools. This point was raised as a true problem and investigation might provide some insights as to why not all employers are focusing on employee health. Perhaps business schools and employers first have to find a reason and then the motivation before the implementation of such a program? An audience member asked about global convergence of employee health programs and wondered if they are similar. Mr. Baur suggested that it could be a globalized study done by the six Council business schools!

By Marie-anne Chauchard, ESSEC Business School

More than just an annual forum, the Council on Business & Society Global Alliance is an ongoing international dialogue. The Council Community helps bring together business leaders, academics and journalists from around the world. #CouncilonBusinessandSociety

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