Study: Accountants are the moral beacon of the workplace

Now here’s a finding you don’t see every day:

Media Release – Richard Ivey School of Business, The University of Western Ontario

Study finds human resource managers not motivated by moral responsibility to implement workplace health programs, but finds accountants are

May 30, 2007

London, Ontario – A new study coming out of the Richard Ivey School of Business and the University of Lethbridge has examined human resource, accountants and senior general managers’ attitudes towards implementing workplace health programs (WHP) and what motivates these groups to implement them.  The study finds that surprisingly, while all were motivated by their belief that the programs reduce indirect costs of health failure, accountants were the group most motivated by their moral responsibility towards employees but surprisingly human resource managers were not. Senior general managers were somewhere in the middle.

The study, co-authored by David Sharp, Professor, Richard Ivey School of Business with Associate Professor Angela Downey at the University of Lethbridge also found that despite the benefits, societal expectation in Canada played no role in motivating senior management to provide workplace health promotion programs. 


In the study, human resource managers, who usually have responsibility for workplace health programs, felt constrained by a lack of power to commit resources.  But controllers’ motivations were driven by their perceived moral responsibility towards employees and their ability to control spending. 

“The inability of human resource managers to significantly influence discretionary spending may have important negative implications for the successful implementation of health promotion programs,” said co-author David Sharp. 

Whatever human resource managers’ views were about their moral responsibility towards their employees, these views had no impact on their plans to implement workplace health programs, perhaps researchers suggest because they have to be increasingly focused on bottom line outcomes. 

“Human resource managers are increasingly concerned with the bottom line and are less likely to be motivated by moral responsibility and more likely to be motivated by outcomes linked to cost savings,” said Sharp.

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