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In case you missed it – Using Smart Data to Improve Health, Engagement and Productivity

In case you missed it -  Using Smart Data to Improve Health, Engagement and Productivity

If your organization is not using smart data to make business decisions about health, well-being and engagement in the workplace, your employees may be lagging in productivity. This was the basic premise of the CPBI lunch presentation from Dr. Tyler Amell, partner at Morneau Shepell on April 13th. There’s been a lot of media attention during the past few years about big data and smart data. These terms are often used interchangeably but Tyler says there is a difference. “Big data is casting a wide net, capturing everything, and using machine learning and other algorithms to sort things out since these data are very large and complex; while smart data is using a more targeted approach.” He says there’s been an evolution of how organizations make decisions from relying mostly on gut instinct to relying on data analytics. Progressive organizations are using predictive algorithms to analyze vast amounts of data and some are fully automating the analysis of data, i.e., “the robots are in charge.”


Tyler says “one third of business leaders make decisions without the information they need and 50% state they do not have access to the information from across the organization.” A recent study has shown that analytically driven organizations have 49% higher revenue, 20 times the profit growth and a 3% higher return on capital invested than non-analytically driven organizations.


The lowest hanging fruit from a productivity point of view is attendance but surprisingly most employers do not have a clear understanding of their cost drivers. A 2015 Morneau Shepell survey indicates that:


  •          64% do not monitor the cost of incidental absence
  •          56% did not know the average duration of their short-term disability claims
  •          47% do not monitor the incidence and cost of workers compensation


In order to combat absenteeism, employers need to help employees better deal with mental health. Absenteeism isn’t just a medical issue as 52% of employees said their last absence was not related to a medical issue.


The second lowest hanging fruit is presenteeism, which is defined as employees reporting to work when ill (physically or mentally) and not performing at their normal levels of productivity. According to research from Statistics Canada, presenteeism is more than seven times more costly for employers than absenteeism, which is already very costly on its own. The mean average rate of absenteeism in Canada in 2011 was 9.3 days according to data from the Conference Board of Canada, which pales in comparison to approximately 69.5 days for presenteeism.


There are many data sources employers can analyze in order to take a more targeted approach to improving total employee health and well-being, including health risk assessments, drug, medical and paramedical plan utilization, absenteeism and both short and long term disability, as well as employee assistance plans. Wearable technology can also be a powerful source of data, which can track employees’ exercise and sleep habits, which are very important for improving health and chronic disease prevention and management. Employers can learn a lot about the health of their workforce by combining these data with basic employee census information, in an anonymous fashion.


Tyler says many employers practice random acts of wellness without having a good understanding how these initiatives actually relate to the specific issues within their employee population. Conversely, data analysis helped one large U.S. insurance company take a more targeted approach by determining that sleep deprivation was one of the most significant issues impacting their employee health and productivity. So now they actually reward employees from $50 to $500 annually to get 8 hours of sleep and rather than rely on self-reporting, best practice would be to track this through the use of wearable technology.


While there was a lot of attention given to data analytics and evidence-informed decision making in health and productivity, Tyler says “this is really about people.” People are at the centre of the equation and are integral to an organization’s success, and to meet goals, people must be healthy.

- Kenneth MacDonald 

Please visit our WordPress Blog for a copy of the presentation

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