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The Surprisingly Strong Connection Between Well-being and Turnover

In our 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, we asked employers to rate the importance of strategies they will be using over the next five years to advance the triple aim of lower cost, higher quality, and a better member experience. This post on the importance of creating a culture of health is the first in a series of posts about these six key strategies

While managing health benefit cost is a business imperative, so is helping workers to thrive — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Higher productivity and lower medical costs aren’t the only potential benefits of a thriving workforce.   When workers see evidence that their employer is supporting their well-being, they tend to stick around longer.

Using data from our National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, we conducted an analysis to examine the relationship between a strong culture of health and employee turnover. We looked at 9 key well-being best practices, such as offering programs supporting behavioral health, making spouses eligible for well-being programs, and, perhaps most important of all, including support for a healthy workplace culture in the company vision or mission statement.

Survey respondents were divided into three roughly equal groups based on the number of these best practices that they used, from fewest to average to most. Then we looked at the average turnover rate for each group. While we expected that the employers doing the most would have lower turnover, the difference was startling – their average turnover rate was 11 percentage points lower than the group doing the least.

Turnover and Well Being

Because different industry sectors have different turnover rates, possibly influencing the results, we repeated the analysis separately within specific industry groups. The results held up across industries – those that typically have high turnover, like retail, and those that have low turnover, like high-tech. In all cases, taking action to create a strong culture of health was associated with lower turnover.

Well Being and Lower Turnover

In a time of low unemployment, when getting and keeping the right people is more critical than ever, any improvement in turnover can make an important contribution to business results. Here’s the list we used. It’s just a starting place, though. What are you doing to help your employees thrive?

  • Company vision/mission statement supports a healthy workplace culture
  • Offer technology-based well-being resources (apps, devices, web-based)
  • Offer optional (paid) well-being programs through plan or vendor
  • Have conducted analysis of employee behavioral health issues
  • Provide stress management, resiliency, or mindfulness programs
  • Well-being strategy includes focus on intrinsic motivation to improve health
  • Spouses and/or children may participate in programs
  • Use incentives to encourage participation in well-being programs
  • Smoker surcharge

by Beth Umland

Beth Umland is Director of Research for Mercer’s Health & Benefits (H&B) business. She oversees all survey research conducted by H&B, including Mercer’s flagship National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, which is used widely by employers, the health care industry, the media and health policymakers.

10 April 2018