Measure impact of workplace health and wellbeing strategy through solid metrics

If you have introduced a workplace health and wellbeing strategy, how do you make sure from the outset that it’s paying dividends for your business? Fiona Lowe advises.

While employees struggle to see their GP or face lengthy waits for consultations and treatment, employers are increasingly recognising that investing in health and wellbeing is good for business.

Nearly 90% of employers believe that the health and wellbeing of their workforce is strategically important to their organisation, according to The Employer View survey of 230 UK decision-makers.

But if you’ve introduced a workplace health and wellbeing strategy to tackle your company’s common health issues, how do you know if it has had the desired effect?

The answer is to measure success by putting in place solid metrics.

Where to start with a workplace health and wellbeing strategy

There are many ways to evaluate the return on your health and wellbeing investment reliably, but it can be hard to know where to start.

Think about what you set out to achieve when you began to develop your strategy. What business objectives did you present to your organisation’s key decision-makers?

Did you want to be more proactive about promoting workplace health and wellbeing, or were you aiming to reduce absenteeism and related costs? In other words, were your goals financial, that is reducing absence and increasing productivity, or HR related, such as better staff engagement and motivation? What did your staff want to get out of the health and wellbeing provision? Perhaps they wanted to feel cared for and valued?

For the majority of employers, all these will be valid reasons for introducing a health and wellbeing strategy because they all have an impact on the business bottom line.

Return on investment and business impact

The return on investment on your health and wellbeing benefits will depend on your original objectives.

If reducing sickness absence was your main goal, set yourself a test period to start recording absence rates and the associated costs. Ideally you should do this before implementing your strategy so that you can measure the impact straight away, but don’t worry if you haven’t done this. Things won’t change overnight and you can review your company’s progress over a number of years.

It’s best to break down your absence statistics by department, role type, location and cause of absence, so that you’ll be able to spot trends and address common health issues. If you need help calculating the cost of employee ill health, an online absence calculator provides a good starting point.

Your absence policy should be well communicated and your line managers fully trained on absence reporting. The number of absence days you’ve saved will give you the number of extra hours you now have to ensure the smooth running of your business.

Recording productivity levels can help you measure the impact of your health and wellbeing strategy. Over the same test period, check if you’ve processed more orders, made more sales or had a lower error rate.

You can also look at take-up rates of any healthcare benefits you’ve put in place, which you should be able to obtain from your chosen health and wellbeing provider. This will indicate the most popular benefits, as well as any that are being under used.

To find out if staff are engaged with your healthcare provision, take a look at email open rates, intranet or portal hits, or send out evaluation forms to encourage feedback. And never underestimate the richness of information you can get from having a conversation with your employees.

Employee engagement

While 5% of employees say nothing their employer could do would make them engage with workplace health and wellbeing programmes, 30% would engage if programmes were communicated better, while nearly half (46%) say they would engage more if their employer asked them what benefits they would like (The Employee View, Westfield Health, 2014).

Measuring engagement is essential because, for most employees, knowing their employer cares about their health and wellbeing would make them more likely to be satisfied, loyal and motivated at work.

Simple and cost effective ways of evaluating engagement include employee surveys and staff focus groups. You could even send out a daily poll to find out how your staff are feeling. This is highly effective and quick and easy to achieve.

Joined-up practice

Your stakeholders have bought into the idea of investing in health and wellbeing, so it’s important to show them they’ve made the right decision.

By establishing key performance indicators such as absence rates and costs, productivity measures and engagement rates right from the start of the programme, and by measuring and monitoring them over time, you will be able to see the improvements that your health and wellbeing strategy is making to your business.

It may be a cliché but employees are your most important asset, and having healthy and motivated staff can really pay dividends and give you a competitive advantage.

About Fiona Lowe

Fiona Lowe is head of HR development and strategy at Westfield Health.
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