Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions (NYSE: AON), is advising employers to understand the business rationale behind employee wellbeing in order to help gain best outcomes. Organisations have goals ranging from tick box exercises to cost avoidance measures to health being central to values, but clear understanding helps avoid health and cost challenges.

The Aon white paper Prevention Is Better Than Cure’ shows that 95% of employers see a correlation between employee health and performance and believe they have a role in trying to educate and improve poor lifestyle behaviours. However, less than half are implementing a defined health strategy. When coupled with factors such as an ageing population, multigenerational workforces and employees increasingly working into their later years due to lack of retirement savings, it is not surprising that focusing on wellbeing, improving behavioural health and preventing disease is an issue for governments and other health bodies, as well as employers.

Mark Witte, principal at Aon, says:

“In recent years, there has been a significant increase in awareness about employee wellbeing – for physical, financial, emotional and social health. Given the increased awareness, as well as the impact and volatility on benefit spend associated with health conditions such as cancer, organisations are advised to understand the key reasons to support employee wellbeing.

“Whether it’s a tick box exercise or putting employee health at the heart of the business, understanding data means it is possible to define key performance indicators, help to avoid volatile costs, better understand results or create return on value, so that employee health supports overall company wellbeing.”

In Aon’s white paper, employers are shown that ignoring the outcomes of poor employee wellbeing creates challenges that link to poor health behaviours and chronic medical conditions. These manifest in different ways, including increased absenteeism and presenteeism, reduced productivity, increasing claim costs, poor financial wellbeing and general disengagement.

This year’s Aon’s Benefits & Trends Survey highlighted that few employers have a specific strategy in place to address conditions that affect their workforces. There is also a challenge to increase expenditure on the early stages of health issues to be in line with that spent on curing conditions. Just over a quarter (26%) of employers say they focus on providing education, but only 8% have resource for detection. Employers are more focused when it comes to access to treatment (30%) or long-term support (30%). There is a shift in focus in employers’ strategies, with 80% now looking to improve awareness and education.

Mark Witte continues:

“Our advice is to use data to analyse the issues that are unique to an individual business, then to ensure full consideration is given to four key stages of wellbeing: prevention and education, detection and early intervention, access to treatment and long term support. The mantra ‘prevention is better than cure’ holds true in employee benefit programmes”.