The Mind-Blowing Cost of Poor Employee Health is on the Shoulders of Absent Leadership by Vinay Singh

I've have been making the case that youth or prime ageism, like all discriminations have far more than just one or two outcomes, there are many. But the worst part about this is the fact that so many of the outcomes are not being calculated in the costs to human society. The 21st century has raged about quant math and tech while people have been kicked to the curb. “If it can’t be measured, then it doesn’t matter!” says the data geeks. It’s time to wake up and understand data results is easy to look at but very often highly inaccurate because it doesn’t take into account so many other factors which are embedded in real world issues and where qualitative data and understanding live.   

For example, why have leaders in organizations ignored strong evidence that cost of poor worker health effects on the job performance? Crazy right? Yet, the excuses abound and many simply say their data is not telling them that this is true. Data can be custom made to make any point. Data is a support tool for making a point! But the bottom line is that poor worker health must rest on the bad leadership decisions for not just years, decades.

Because of short sightedness and bad leadership, America and many other very wealthy countries have allowed their own people and societies to fall into lower classes, experience extensive overworked lives and ultimately now, generations of employees have been putting 50- and 60-hour work weeks on low octane brain power. The biggest loser, other than people at the individual level, is the shareholders of companies and national society as a whole.

Now, anyone who follows me and my work knows about my theoretical human capital meta trend, “prime ageism” and income inequality. It is the fundamental case for Inequity. I’m pretty sure you know many people today talking about equity without talking much about what equity really means. It’s a trending for 2021, but it should not have become a trendy word and it surely is one of the greatest failures of people in leadership roles for at least this entire century. Inequity is one of the greatest issues that organizational leaders have turned their cheek to and they have done so in part because employees have not stood up for their own workability and in turn people have lost their actual self-worth. Ask yourself why are people willing to work 50 and 60 hours for the pay of 40 hours? People take their work home. On vacation. At the dinner table with their children and even spend our time working while sitting in the stands “not watching” our children at their school events. I had a friend who was checking emails while holding his wife’s hand when she was giving birth – and he says that proudly as a testament toward this work ethic! Are you catching my drift? We as a global society are overworked and underpaid.

So, this is what the Age and Wage Effect, as I call it, is all about. These are two major issues that are at the root of many negative outcomes affecting America and all developed nations today. Ageism now has crept into the mid-to-late thirty age groups. Are you kidding me? Income Inequality is other-world. With this kind of wealth being generated? And where are the leaders? Why are they not talking more about this? It you’re agreeing with me, let me present some hard factual realities to you.

And for those of you in leadership who might be thinking, “if people are being discriminated against or not making enough money, what's that got to do with my company and it’s revenues?” Everything - and in a big way. 

As noted in an article in 2019, so this is pre-pandemic for those of you who say we should not count this point in time: I cited Forbes which stated: “Poor worker health costs U.S. employers $530 billion a year, everything from lost productivity due to worker absence and chronic conditions that cause ‘impaired performance’ to workers compensation.”

Integrated Benefits Institute is quoted in the article to find that “Poor worker health costs amount to “60 cents for every dollar employer spend on health care benefits” and U.S. employers spend $880 billion on health care benefits for their workers and dependents.”

Forbes puts the above astronomical costs in context “the cost of poor health to employers is greater than the combined revenues of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, EBAY and Adobe."

Hey! Is your face like an OMG emoji?” It should be.

Here are just some of the staggering numbers:

  • $178 Billion - Wage and benefits such as “incidental absence due to illness, workers’ compensation and federal family and medical leave.”
  • $198 Billion - Impaired performance “attributed to chronic health conditions.”
  • $82 Billion - Opportunity costs of absence from “missed revenues, costs of hiring substitutes, overtime.”

I believe the outcomes of these two root causes show up in many forms such as poor diet, substance abuse, depression at the individual level because people are the engine of organizations. I am presenting to you the correlation that companies are severely taxed by Ageism and Wage Inequality too – they have not been looking at the big picture. And, if a leader is looking at data all day long, they are too short term-sighted. They can’t see the big picture.

There can be no doubt that being underemployed due to Ageism as well as being underemployed in general; where wages do not keep up with the cost-of-living creates many unwanted stresses and they often lead to cutting costs in important areas such as proper diet and exercise and instead could end up in negative habits that are masked as coping mechanisms.

Isn’t it time you started to care about you?

If you are an HR or Talent Acquisition practitioner, this article should matter to you.

Learn More Now:

There are Solutions to our Problems & Organizations Can Reverse This – Let’s Do This! Human Capital Strategy 4.0


Singh is a leading consultant in the field of workforce development and talent acquisition strategy and has been a trusted adviser to hundreds of companies. Singh is the author of the Amazon top 10 bestseller on Ageism book; YOUR FUTURE IN PIECES.

He studies Adult Learning & Leadership and Employee Engagement strategy at Columbia University where he is constructing the next big meta trend model to supercharge workforce culture and productivity. Connect with Vinay.