When employees are recognized for their wellness efforts and achievements, organizations achieve an average health assessment completion rate of 61 percent of eligible employees. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Employee wellness remains a moving target for employers. The concept itself continues to evolve, and as it expands, so does the available data informing outcomes and best practices.

The latest developments are tracked by Health Enhancement Research Organization and Mercer in the latest 2018 Progress Report for the HERO Health and Well-being Best Practices Scorecard, which finds that, among other things, well-being initiatives fare better when leaders are visibly supportive and involved.

Not surprisingly, such programs do better when leaders take part in health and well-being initiatives themselves, as well as recognizing employees who succeed at such activities. Active involvement makes a noticeable difference in programs that aim to improve employees’ well-being.

According to the report, one study found that when employees are recognized for their wellness efforts and achievements, organizations achieve an average health assessment completion rate of 61% of eligible employees. Lacking recognition from leaders, that drops to just 48%. And another study reported that with leader recognition, there was measurable improvement both in population health (91%) and medical plan cost (87%), compared with companies not recognizing employee success (83% and 81%, respectively).

A third study found that the effect of leader participation in wellness efforts resulted in higher median rates of both employee satisfaction with health and well-being programs (83%) and employee perception of organizational support (85%), compared with organizations whose leaders did not actively participate (66% and 67%, respectively).

“These findings suggest organizations that want to improve employee well-being and impact spending should consider how they can bolster organizational support and leadership involvement in day-to-day well-being activities,” Steven Noeldner, senior total health management consultant, Mercer, said in a statement.

Noeldner added, “Even if you have an established, comprehensive program, a perceived lack of leadership support could prevent employees from participating and benefiting from these initiatives. Leadership support costs very little to implement and can be as simple as celebrating employee efforts or sharing personal well-being goals and practices.”

In addition, organizations offering targeted lifestyle management services have higher rates of health improvement—29% compared with 9%—and a similar result for medical cost trend (36% when targeted services are present, compared with just 10% when they are not).

Financial incentives, too, pay off, with 72% of employees reporting satisfaction with well-being initiatives, compared with 66% when employers do not offer incentives. Having a plan also helps, with 56% of employers having a formal, written strategic plan in place for well-being reporting better outcomes on health improvement and medical trend than those that do not.