The warm fuzzies that employees expect from their human resources departments may be better placed with the company beancounters, a new study indicates.
Corporate accountants — not the people in charge of employee benefits — are the most likely senior managers to push for workplace health programs out of a sense of moral responsibility. The conclusion stunned researchers from the Richard Ivey School of Business.
“I would have expected accountants to be worried about the bottom line and the HR managers to be concerned about employees and employee wellness, but it was the other way around,” said co-author David Sharp, management professor at the business school at the University of Western Ontario.
As Sharp followed up on the findings with individual managers, “it became very clear that HR people are not there to look after people, they are there to deliver bottom line results through people.”
Growing evidence indicates that workplace efforts to champion health — such as setting up onsite exercise facilities, paying for gym memberships or even organizing challenges among staff — reduce health care costs, reduce absenteeism and improve employee productivity.
But since there are no accepted means of pinpointing the cost savings to employers, Sharp and Angela Downey, now an associate professor at the University Of Lethbridge, launched the study to determine what motivates companies to provide workplace health programs. “You’d like to think there was an element of altruism in it, that they do it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Sharp. “You’d like to think that, but the reality is changing. You and I are only there because we are part of a system that delivers profitability.”