The workforce really is worth it

An uncertain economic outlook, an ageing workforce and a talent deficit: everything these days is about quantifying impact on the bottom line, so why are ‘people’ an exception, asks Simon Thomas, head of employee benefits & life division, Generali

Wellness on a budget

As the results of Reward magazine’s latest Wellbe­ing in the Workplace 2017 survey attests, employee wellbeing is the key to a more moti­vated and productive workforce. In spite of this, senior management commitment to wellbeing is often lacking and – no doubt linked to this – evidence of return on investment (ROI) seems elusive. A happy and healthy workforce makes business sense, and fortunately, ROI can be achieved by working in partnership with group income protection (IP) insurers.

Wellbeing matters 

The overwhelming majority of respondents to Reward’s research said that the top benefit to companies offering wellbeing benefits was ‘a more engaged workforce’ (80%). In second place was ‘a more productive work­force’ at 47%: this disparity in percentages in itself shows a lack of connection between the two elements.

Take a look at the key factors often attributed to sick leave. In top place comes disengaged staff (80%), fol­lowed closely by caring responsibilities (78%) and then lack of annual leave (32%). The link between engage­ment, absence and productivity seems clear.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting that the biggest barriers to building a wellbeing strategy closely mirror those pre­venting the greater take-up of long-term sickness cover.

Cost & ROI

For as little as 0.25% of payroll, employees can be cov­ered by group IP, plus they and their families will have access to a huge range of added value services.

Even if the entire workforce is not covered, it’s often still possible to roll out added value benefits to all employees. This can open up absence management and wellbeing opportunities to many small- to medium-sized enterprises. Costs can be further contained by notifying the insurer of absence, even with a simple phone call, at an early stage. Then the employer can reap the full ben­efit of tailoring added value services to need – namely getting the individual back on their feet and reducing the likelihood of a group IP claim.

To provide an example: mental health is a ‘major con­cern’ for just under 40% of respondents. Once the group IP insurer is notified of a potential mental health-related absence, various options can be investigated. These might include use of the employee assistance pro­gramme (EAP) or referral for face-to-face counselling.

If hotspots among the workforce are identified, addi­tional services offered via the group IP insurer at prefer­ential rates could include on-site stress workshops and management training in mental health awareness.

Understanding & awareness

In order to ensure tangible ROI, it’s essential to ensure benefit usage. Some providers offer communications help and expertise, such as self-serve portals that allow HR to produce employer-branded communications. Added to this may be healthy lifestyle support material such as newsletters and online seminars.

Think the state will provide?

Think again. It’s somewhat surprising that this is still regarded as a barrier to greater take-up of group IP. The employer is increasingly being leaned on by the state to provide and the reduction in support provided by the welfare system needs to be made clear. Anyone relying on statutory sick pay will receive just £88.45 a week – a fall of around £325 a week for the average earner and a loss of £9,000 for someone who is off for six months.

So there you have it

Barriers dealt with. Now it’s time for HR and insurers to work in partnership to recognise the true value of employees and their wellbeing.

This article first appeared in Reward's new research report, Wellbeing in the Workplace 2017. To read the report in full, CLICK HERE