Case Studies of Four Leading Multinational Companies Provide a Look at Best Practices for Global Health and Wellness Programs

Underscoring the universality of employee health issues, global companies that take an active approach to employee health and well-being can see a positive impact on their bottom line, according to a new white paper released today from MetLife. MetLife Multinational Solutions and the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in coordination with the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, undertook detailed examinations at four large multinational companies to determine chronic diseases, lifestyle-related health issues, and other trends impacting employees’ health, the impact on costs and productivity, and how these issues are being addressed. The MetLife Study of Global Health and Wellness is available at

“While there are different issues at play in different cultures – needing tailored solutions – the universal truth is that investing in employee health is important for long-term business success. The MetLife study provides insights into how multinational employers can overcome challenges to encourage a workplace culture of health while maintaining a competitive business model,” said Rudy Bethea, vice president, Multinational Solutions, MetLife.

The MetLife study highlights practices of four leading, multinational corporations, American Express, CEMEX, GlaxoSmithKline and PPG Industries, focusing on their wellness programs at sites in India, Mexico, China, the Philippines, the U.S. and the U.K. As these employers face challenges and opportunities that vary across the globe, such as local culture, local government, employee acceptance, availability of health care vendors and communication with employees, the study looks at the specific steps taken to maximize employee health globally to reach solutions that fit business and employee needs.

“General access to affordable health care, the prevalence of chronic disease and a growing aging labor force are all factors that today’s multinational employers must consider as they develop policies, physical facilities and behavioral standards within the workplace that are supportive of healthy living,” adds Bethea. “We believe employers can learn from the successes of the four companies featured in the MetLife resource as they navigate the ever-changing global health environment and design cost effective health and wellness programs that address the needs of their employees and their business.”

Connecting Global and Local Health – Key Themes from the Study
Key trends uncovered by the study highlight how today’s global employers are managing their workforce’s health, including:

An increased focus on creating a culture of health rather than isolated programs
While the concept of employee wellness is not new, employers are now focused on creating an overall culture of health. To help address issues facing their employees such as chronic disease and lifestyle related health issues, employers have taken a more holistic approach to wellness and are developing policies, physical facilities and behavioral standards within the workplace that are supportive of healthy living.

Health trends are changing all over the world
Chronic disease and lifestyle related health issues are increasing, not only in developed countries like the U.S. and the U.K., but also in emerging economies such as Mexico, China, and India, where a middle class is starting to thrive. In China and the Philippines, access to consistent health care by the overall population is a problem. Employers with global operations are trying to navigate and address these issues which have a significant impact on the health of the workforce base.

Local health care costs drive employer focus
In the U.S., a major goal of employers is to reduce long-term health care costs, in addition to reducing employee absenteeism, increasing productivity, improving engagement and retention, and being an employer of choice. Outside the U.S., however, medical costs are lower, so employers can concentrate on the latter four objectives.

Best Practices for Global Companies

Bethea highlights the following best practices followed by the participating multinational corporations as considerations for employers when implementing a successful global health and wellness program:

  • Consider the Business Drivers. Think about the factors that drive an organization’s interest prior to implementing a health and wellness program. When launching a global strategy, keep in mind that business drivers are likely to vary depending on cultural and political influences. Also consider developing a program that serves as an extension of the company’s brand, mission or philosophy.
  • Evaluate Progress.In addition to identifying business drivers to influence, outline the outcomes the company hopes to achieve. Know the health-related indicators that give the overall profile of a facility to help embed health and wellness in the culture of the organization, and track program participation from the onset. One measurement tactic might be to embed health questions that examine markers of well-being in the company’s annual survey to measure success.
  • Balance Corporate Goals with Government Mandates and Cultural Expectations. Once a company has identified its overarching goals at the corporate level and in each country, it can be helpful to engage local partners as part of the implementation plan. Finding a balance between standardized processes and branding with some elements that are customized locally can be key to success, and engaging local employees in different regions may encourage greater participation. Be open to various methods of implementation depending on a location’s culture.

By incorporating these best practices during the planning and implementation stage of any health and well-being program, employers will have in place a framework to build a global program that is locally flexible and maximizes its benefits to both employers and employees.

Six in-depth telephone interviews were conducted from March – April 2010 with US and foreign corporate heads of health care initiatives at four multinational companies. The companies range in size from 40,000 - 90,000 employers, operating in 50-130 countries including the Americas, Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific. Reviews of company materials and key health issues, current benefit offerings, and cost-containment strategies in developing countries also informed the study.

About MetLife

MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc.(NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions.


Karen Eldred