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Survey: CFOs View Employee Health as Affecting the Bottom Line

The survey, conducted by the not-for-profit Integrated Benefits Institute in San Francisco, indicates that the C-suite is increasingly involved in decisions regarding health benefits and the overall wellness of workers.

February 15, 2012
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Two-thirds of chief financial officers believe that providing comprehensive health coverage is important for their companies' financial strategy, but they say they lack information that could help them improve the health of employees, according to a new survey of more than 300 CFOs.

The survey, conducted by the not-for-profit Integrated Benefits Institute in San Francisco, indicates that the C-suite is increasingly involved in decisions regarding health benefits and the overall wellness of workers.

For instance, in 2006, just half of CFOs surveyed by the institute said they have access to absentee information about their workers. But today, three-fourths of CFOs surveyed said they have that data.

"That tells me that CFOs see health beyond health care costs," said Thomas Parry, president of the IBI. "They see absence as a productivity problem."

Contrary to some prior surveys indicating that employers would drop health care benefits under federal health reform, most CFOs surveyed here said maintaining the good health of their employees offers a competitive advantage. Some 69 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that promoting healthy behaviors is a company priority, the survey found.

A full 70 percent of executives said they most trusted their company's own claims costs when making decisions about improving the health of their workforce. Less credible information included supplier recommendations, modeling from others' experiences and information from outside the company.

Still, the CFOs said they face deficits of information to make health-improvement decisions, such as how health is affecting job performance and return on investment for health interventions. Some 67 percent said they would like information on return on investment for health interventions but it is not available.

Andy Hunzeker, CFO of Lincoln Industries, a metal finishing supplier in Lincoln, Nebraska, said he was surprised at that finding.

"We have all the tools we need," he said of data around workforce health. "Part of picking suppliers is getting the information we want to be able to analyze our health intervention programs."

Hunzeker said the health of his workforce is very important to Lincoln Industries' overall success.

"It's one of our core beliefs," he said. "We view it as a competitive advantage."

Rebecca Vesely is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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