In recent years, the dramatic rise in corporate health and wellness programs shows that companies understand (or are beginning to) the benefits of a healthy workforce. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than two-thirds of U.S. employers currently offer a wellness program as part of their benefits packages.

The main focuses have been on exercise and eating healthier, but unless these programs address everything employees are eating, they are doomed to fail.

Take, for example, the case study presented by Alison Acerra, MS, RD, national nutrition and wellness manager for Guckenheimer, a national workplace foodservice provider during a 2014 episode of Workforce Health Engagement podcast hosted by Jesse Lahey, SPHR.

Guckenheimer’s client had recognized it had a significant problem with increasing health care costs, rising insurance rates and decreasing productivity. After issuing company-wide biometric screenings, it confirmed 29 percent of its workforce had Metabolic Syndrome (caused primarily by insufficient exercise and a diet rich in sugar, salt and fat). Senior executives quickly engaged experts to help them evaluate employee health and develop a wellness program with incentives, in hopes of seeing major improvements.

Unfortunately, the results were very disheartening. While reassessing the wellness program, Guckenheimer realized why it wasn’t working: the food and beverage offerings sold to employees in the company cafeteria and vending machines and in meetings were more likely to promote disease than prevent it.

After revamping the on-site cafeteria to make it more health-focused and nudging employees to choose healthier options with strategic positioning and pricing subsidies, the company’s Metabolic Syndrome rates dropped from a high of 29 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2012. It also saw a $1.5 million reduction in health care spending.

The results of the Guckenheimer program are not unique. Research indicates that when companies genuinely support and promote the well-being of their workers, the rewards exceed health-related cost savings. Building a culture of health and wellness and holistic employee well-being helps create a healthier, more engaged and loyal workforce—employees who deliver a difference both for their teams and their departments.

For Part One in this Series, Visit: Lessons for Human Resources Professionals: The Care and Feeding of Employees

For Part Three in this Series, Visit: Lessons for Human Resources Professionals: Supporting Employees Dietary Needs