Nearly 9 in 10 executives say that improving employee health is their top reason for implementing workplace wellness programs, according to new research.

Humana unveils this finding in “Measuring wellness: From data to insights,” a report that explores why companies implement workplace wellness, how data influences these programs and obstacles that inhibit program participation. Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Humana, the study surveyed 225 U.S.-based executives and 630 full-time employees from organizations with workplace wellness programs.

“[E]mployers now view ROI as an important, but not exclusive or even primary measure of a wellness program’s success,” says Beth Bierbower, president of Humana’s Employer Group Segment. “Employers are now seeing that employee health is important beyond health care costs. It has profound impacts on productivity, retention, workplace engagement and morale.”

Nearly one-third of executives surveyed by Humana (30 percent) believe that wellness programs benefit the employer, even if a compelling business case cannot be demonstrated. An additional 27 percent say that wellness programs can be cost effective, but only if there are supported by information and insights from data collection.

One-fifth of the survey respondents indicate that wellness programs are part of a “progressive human resources (HR) strategy,” thereby helping to make the company an employer of choice, whether or not a wellness program is cost-effective. Another 15 percent of respondents say that wellness programs are cost-effective.  

Among the report’s other key findings:

  • Nearly 70 percent of executives consider their organization’s wellness program to be cost effective, though not all of the outcomes are measurable.
  • While 86 percent of executives say improving employee health as an indirect driver of productivity, morale and engagement is their top reason for implementing a wellness program, cost factors are still important, including reducing employee health care costs (66 percent) and controlling medical claims (48 percent).
  • About 30 percent of employees rate subsidized gym memberships, onsite health and wellness facilities, and budgeted wellness activity time during business hours, as the three most important services that would motivate participation.
  • 64 percent of employees have used fitness devices to monitor health and capture data, but only 19 percent use them regularly.

Read the full report here.