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by Sandra M Reed and Anne M. Bogardus

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  Like its bestselling predecessor before it, this offers the very best thinking on the future of HR from the most respected leaders in the field.

Measuring employee wellness

May 1 2001 - There is growing concern over burned-out, stressed-out workforces but widespread adoption of corporate wellness programs in Canada has been discouraged by an inability to make a solid business case and justify the costs, according to Buffett Taylor & Associates. They argue that most Canadian companies do not view wellness as a strategic business imperative because they cannot link it to the bottom line.

Buffett Taylor & Associates have launched a new and comprehensive cost/benefit tool which, they claim, 'enables organizations to rigorously evaluate the impact of their wellness investment on their employees' wellbeing, on their organization's wellbeing - and, ultimately, on the bottom line'.

Buffett Taylor & Associates say that the software tracks, analyses and generates reports quantitatively and qualitatively. It also reveals return on investment as well as organizational trends in areas such as absenteeism, productivity, disability/benefit costs, company morale, employee attitudes, program participation. Other features of the Buffett Taylor Employee Wellness Cost Benefit Software are:

The flexibity to accommodate a multitude of user requirements - e.g, multiple sites, multiple users, a variety of program initiatives with different measurement requirements, or other customized needs. The company cites, as an example, the ability to measure the effectiveness of an organization's its cardiovascular wellness program by tracking health progress, absenteeism, medication usage, knowledge level and participant satisfaction - and provide reports in an aggregate manner. Additionally, it will calculate the return on investment of the program, showing the financial impact of outcomes such as reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, reduced medical claims,and so on.

The software also allows for web-enabled data collection, for example through online questionnaires. Given the sensitivity of employee information, security features are included allowing users to access only at designated security levels. This means that reports and other information can be restricted to certain users.

"Workplace wellness has lagged in Canada because of an inability to validate and quantify the return on investment," says Ed Buffett, founder and chairman of Buffett Taylor & Associates. "And, while there is a growing base of evidence supporting the value of workplace wellness programs, organizations haven't had any feasible means to truly demonstrate the effectiveness of their own proprietary corporate wellness initiatives.

"With employee burn-out on the rise, the time is right to give wellness a proper seat at the boardroom table. But without the tools to properly evaluate how your wellness dollar is performing, this area will continue to be seen as another soft benefit," adds Buffett.

A recent survey, (Buffett Taylor National Wellness Survey Report 2000), conducted for the company found that only 17% of mid-to-large sized Canadian organizations said they offer a comprehensive employee wellness program. When asked to name the main health risks identified by their organizations, respondents ranked stress highest (cited by 83%), then 'smoking' (57%), 'unable to balance work and family' (55%) and 'feeling of loss of control over work schedule and environment' (53%).

"We are now living in a global economy where technology and intense competition are driving our employees faster than ever - and often on a 7/24 basis. Yet, while the heavy lifting of business comes from innovation and intellectual capital, we are at risk of burning out our most important asset, " says Buffett. "We must do all we can to put wellness on the table as a business issue before it's too late to catch up."

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