By Simon Thomas, Director – UK Employee Benefits, Generali
Return on investment (ROI) has stifled wellbeing decision-making at senior management level for too long. This has to change to a more meaningful outcomes based approach if we’re to stand any chance of tackling some of the biggest health threats of our time thus, in turn, promoting and supporting healthier lives and a healthier bottom line.
We’re living longer but not in the best of health. Chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease remain amongst the top causes of long-term absence, second only to stress1. Diabetes now represents the health condition costing employers the most, according to a recent survey, reported in US publication Benefit News2. Diabetes is the fastest growing health threat of our time and an urgent public health issue, says charity Diabetes UK. Globally, diabetes is estimated to affect one person in 10 by 2040 or, put it another way, around 642 million people3.
Chronic conditions – and associated healthcare costs - are on the rise globally, driven largely by the fact that ever-increasing longevity is led more by medical advancements than by healthy living. This is proving a drain on the public purse and on employers in terms of absence, lost productivity and increasing insurance premiums.
It’s time to end the fixation on ROI and get proactive:
- Identify key areas for sustainable change in the workplace and ensure this supports overall business strategy.
- To help drive that change, target and maximise use of the vast array of wellbeing interventions included gratis with group income protection (IP).
- Talk to your insurer about helping you to fund – partially or fully - any much needed wellbeing services you don’t already have.
- Measure success in terms of outcomes relevant to your business, not meaningless industry-wide – or even countrywide – ROI statistics.
Generali recently announced partnerships with a range of wellbeing service providers to help make wider support services more accessible to employers. Here, we get their expert insight and views on how to achieve meaningful outcomes.
Randox Health offers an affordable solution to achieving a comprehensive whole body screen by using advanced blood testing. Jason Webster, Business Development Manager at Randox Health, comments: “For over a decade, reports have shown clear links between structured and meaningful wellbeing programmes and a variety of business-related outcomes such as recruitment and retention.
“However, in order for companies to get the most out of these programmes, they must be meaningful. This is when it is fully appreciated and the business value is evident. That’s why we work with clients and tailor corporate packages to need.”
Check4Cancer recommends a free tool called the Cancer Impact Calculator that was developed for the provider by Health at Work wellness actuaries. It allows organisations to assess the value of introducing company paid cancer detection services. Debbie Fuller, Marketing Manager at Check4Cancer, says: “Based on current data on the risk of cancer among people of working age in the UK, it uses hard and soft measures to calculate the impact of cancer in the workplace on aspects such as presenteeism and absenteeism.”
Meanwhile, Jade Croucher, Account Manager at Doctor Care Anywhere, a virtual GP service, advocates encouraging employees to take a proactive approach to their physical and mental wellbeing. In order to achieve this, employers must take a needs-driven and targeted approach. “The traditional benefits are no longer fit for purpose as globalisation and flexible working patterns mean that workforces are mobile and out of the office more.
“Whilst there are obvious challenges in recording the more qualitative outcomes of providing a strong wellbeing proposition, there are ways that HR can justify the cost of providing these in terms with which senior management and finance functions will be able to identify.”
Jade suggests the following:
- Having robust monitoring processes that will record and track employee absenteeism. This will allow businesses to have better insight as to why employees are taking time off work and can use this to shape their proposition, as well as track improvements and changes in existing patterns.
- Measuring reduction in churn and increase in employee satisfaction, by looking at factors such as increased length in service from employees and outputs from regular one-to-ones with staff.
- Ensuring your service providers are providing you with relevant management information. This should evidence how much employees are engaging with the service and what this is telling the business about their staff.
“The best way to really monitor and gauge impact of your wellness strategy is to ask employees themselves,” adds Jade. “Regular feedback will mean that you will hear what is working and what is not, to refine and improve your strategy. You will get data points to validate the services you are using are having a positive impact and your employees will feel like they are contributing to the benefits available to them.”
Alison Pay, Marketing & Operations Director at Mental Health at Work, agrees that feedback from end users is essential. She advises that the qualitative should be captured in addition to carrying out employee surveys. “We don’t discount the qualitative aspect. We try to capture feedback during and after training sessions and in the weeks following. This relies on line managers feeding back anecdotal information. We don’t do formal questions around this, it should come out organically.”
Mental Health at Work is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company that offers skills-based mental health training to help organisations understand, manage and promote mental health as an integral part of working life. In short, they aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
Alison says it’s important for employers to define upfront what they want those people attending the training to come away with – in other words, set outcome expectations.
“For the general population this might be about awareness and literacy. For line managers it will be about skills and will vary according to their roles and responsibilities.
“Outcomes are much simpler than ROI: what did you want to change? And have you changed it?”
Alison uses the analogy of a company investing in leadership activities: “Companies don’t measure success [of such activity] in terms of ROI. They measure it by whether they have better managers and whether teams are happy and satisfied.”
Dr Umang Patel, Clinical Director of Babylon, a virtual and artificial intelligence GP, suggests that providers should collaborate to ensure that data and insight can be combined to show real world use that can be applied robustly to give measurable outcomes.
“We have to start somewhere and we need to start today,” he adds. “Already, so much information is being gathered that could help your entire benefits suite perform more efficiently but it is difficult to access and utilise some of these findings.
“It’s important to set targets / KPIs that matter to you and that you understand. If a provider offers you 4x engagement, find out what that means – I don’t [know]! And ask for case studies to show how that resulted in a positive impact.”
No time like the present
The ongoing rise in chronic conditions and mental health issues, combined with the gradual withdrawal of state support in many countries around the world, translate into an unspoken expectation that employers will provide as they have too much at stake not to, in terms of business success.
Against this backdrop, delays and barriers in the implementation of much-needed wellbeing initiatives have had their day. It’s time for ROI to take a back seat to much more tailored and meaningful outcome measures.
1 Absence Management 2016, CIPD (Nov 2016) https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/absence-management_2016_tcm18-16360.pdf
2 Workplace Wellness Trends 2017, International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, as reported in https://www.benefitnews.com/slideshow/top-10-health-conditions-costing-employers-the-most (Sept 2017)
3 Diabetes UK Facts and Stats, Oct 2016 edition https://diabetes-resources-production.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/diabetes-storage/migration/pdf/DiabetesUK_Facts_Stats_Oct16.pdf [accessed Oct 2017]