Why is poor decision-making so prevalent in today's society? What role can the business community play in helping people make decisions that are more personally and socially beneficial?
These complex and far-reaching questions were the subject of lively discussion Friday at the University of Virginia during the McIntire School of Commerce's 2011 Fall Forum, "Cultivating Well-Being: The Necessary Role of Business Leaders, Researchers and Educators." The forum was held in Old Cabell Hall and presented by the McIntire School's Center for Growth Enterprises.
Kicking off the discussion was keynote speaker Punam Anand Keller, Charles Henry Jones Third Century Professor of Management at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business.
An internationally recognized expert in the areas of health promotion and financial literacy, she discussed not only the challenges of defining and quantifying well-being, but also of improving the dishearteningly low participation rates in corporate and public well-being programs. She outlined some of the methods she has developed for improving the success of such programs, including simplifying the instructions for opening a retirement account and showing employees a five-minute video featuring their colleagues discussing why they'd chosen to participate in a particular well-being program.
"You have to show people the benefits of engaging in certain behaviors," Keller said. "You have to tailor your marketing to their needs."
Keller challenged audience members to consider how, through their businesses, research or teaching, they might work to improve the well-being of their various relevant stakeholders.
Perhaps most significantly, Keller stressed the compatibility of profitability and practices that enhance employee and consumer well-being.
"Well-being is positively correlated with profitability," she said. "There's a direct relationship between employee and customer satisfaction and growth, profitability and consumer loyalty."
Keller's talk was followed by a panel discussion of academic and policy perspectives on well-being. The panel offered views on issues ranging from the question of free choice to the extent to which a government should make moral judgments on behalf of its citizens.
Panelist Dogan Eroglu, associate director for communication science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out the degree to which personal health decisions – such as smoking or eating an unhealthful diet – affect the entire society.
"Health is not 'somebody else's business,'" he said. "Business must work with society to help solve problems that impact society."
Commenting on a discussion of the threat of government paternalism, Josh Wright, acting director of the Office of Financial Education and Financial Access in the U.S. Department of the Treasury, suggested that there is no such thing as free choice.
"Whether government- or market-influenced, all choices are biased in some way," he said. "There's no need to mandate behaviors, but why not help to structure people's decisions? Why not have people default into positive programs, such as savings plans?"
The panel also discussed the contentious issue of morality in the policy-making processes of business and government leaders. Eroglu pointed out the complexity of the issue: Whether or not policy decisions are cast in moral terms, he said, "they may prove to have enormous moral and social consequences."
The forum closed with a panel discussion of executive perspectives on well-being, focusing largely on the relationship between business practices that enhance the well-being of employees and customers, and growth and profitability. Agreeing that such business practices undoubtedly have a positive impact on the bottom line, the panelists went on to discuss particular ways of enacting and improving them.
Dianne Morse Houghton, chief operating officer of New Leaders and a 1982 McIntire graduate, stressed the benefits of investing in employees and creating the most positive possible workplace environment. "Never have a doubt that creating an environment where people can do their best work is the best thing for the bottom line," she told the audience.
Andy Schoonover, a 2001 McIntire graduate and chief executive officer of Valued Relationships Inc., agreed, pointing out that his company's employment practices have led to remarkably low rates of turnover and continued growth within a flat industry. "There's a natural connection between treating employees well and return on investment," he said.
Taking a slightly different tack, Jerry Ng, president and chief executive officer of Indonesia's Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional – which has been growing at a 40 percent annual rate – stressed the business benefits of creating an organization that is truly and broadly beneficial to its customers.
BTPN, which serves a largely low-income, elderly clientele, offers not only caring customer service, but also superb auxiliary services, including free medical clinics in its bank branches; seminars on living healthy physical, spiritual and social lives; and courses in financial management. Engaging in such well-being-enhancing practices, Ng said, "is not only philosophically good, it creates competitive advantages."
McIntire Dean Carl Zeithaml, who moderated the panel, commented on the common-sense nature of many of the most effective well-being-enhancing practices. Such practices, he noted, involved creativity, but not complexity.
"There are simple ways to make a big difference," he said.
Jim Travisano | Newswise Science News
Mathematical confirmation: Rewiring financial networks reduces systemic risk
22.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Frugal Innovations: when less is more
19.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology