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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

A Hiring Tool Recommended For Improved Productivity, Team Building And Health Care Cost Containment

Wednesday May 17, 2006

American companies, like their counterparts in other Western nations, rely on an assortment of tools for improving the odds that wise choices will be made in recruitment processes. Success in hiring is affected not only by obvious variables, such as candidate education and work experiences, but as well by a complex of factors relating to the health, personality and psychology of prospective recruits. These variables influence worker retention rates, job satisfaction and performance, how well employees work with each other (separately and as team members) and ultimately, an organization's productivity and profitability.

A key purpose of the array of employee assessment instruments is to ensure that the right people are fitted to the right jobs. Many of the tools are based on field-tested personality inventories and assessments. These tools are invaluable for screening new hires to ensure functional matches between candidates and jobs. Not everyone, for example, has such attributes as a high need to win/prevail, or for autonomy, change, or for appreciation and evidence -- factors associated with success in sales. Profiles based on personality factors are also employed to help company managers plan succession strategies, evaluate talent, assess leadership, strengthen promotional decisions and much more.

However, there is one hiring tool not yet widely adopted or, for that matter, even well developed in this country. Yet, the tool I have in mind could prove useful for management and personnel consulting firms that design and market instruments for employee selection, retention, and management. This new tool could assist American companies to improve productivity, build effective teams, contain health care costs and much more.

The hiring tool I have in mind would probe aspects of life quality related to positive and negative company outcomes. Positive outcomes are worker energy levels, self-discipline and the like; negative outcomes are "pain" or problem factors, such as illness states and high medical utilization.

I think of this proposed tool as a wellness commitment profile. The profile would help to assess a prospective employee's devotion to a range of variables certain to affect his/her future health status. An employee's commitment to attitudes and behaviors associated with a wellness lifestyle is at least as consequential to his/her health status as how much doctor care or drug benefits the company health policy covers, the quality of the work environment and related factors. The key variables in a wellness commitment profile would represent a DNA-like attitudinal and behavioral pattern. The variables would include such elements as these:

In time, I believe all companies will purchase some form of wellness commitment-testing instruments from leading management and personnel consulting firms. These wellness commitment profiles will be developed and marketed to complement other instruments that help employers make more informed hiring decisions. The new instruments will assist recruiters in ways not possible from standard profiles, however beneficial these tools have proven to be for more limited present purposes. 

Companies today face numerous cost problems that begin at the hiring stage. Some of these problems are associated with ever-rising health insurance. (The share of the US economy devoted to health care climbed to 15.3 percent of GDP two years ago, which was roughly $6,000 for each man, woman and child.) However, even larger factors are involved. In England, leading banks and other organizations have established a new job category, "well-being managers," based upon a recognition that "healthy workers are more productive - they are less likely to be absent and more likely to be working at 100 per cent of their potential."  (Source: Timesonline, "Body&Soul: Healthy Office Special," February 25, 2006. ) In fact, research conducted at Harvard suggests that the healthiest, fittest employees are up to 20 percent more productive.

It is time to take account of wellness factors for prospective, if not current employees. While the data reported in the above study derive from British work environments, the research commentary surely sounds applicable to the American experience: "The irony is that employers increasingly want people who are more healthy, more energetic, less stressed - thinner, faster and quicker, in other words - but what they have been getting is a workforce that is less healthy, more stressed and fatter."

I thought it quite telling that the British studies make a direct connection between employee performance and wellness commitments. A nine percent difference was equated with an extra week's work annually from each employee. The wellness selection process and other initiatives reduced the number of employees in high-risk categories and the added productivity was the equivalent of one extra working day a week.

We will have to wait for an enterprising firm to design and test a wellness commitment tool. In the meantime, I recommend that companies develop, disseminate and encourage a better understanding of and support for high quality-of-life, wellness commitments and practices. Companies would be wise to find acceptable and effective ways to attract employees who embrace such wellness mindsets.

Be well. Always look on the bright side of life.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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