Wellbeing: time to ditch ROI & focus on outcomes

Simon Thomas, Director – UK Employee Benefits at Generali, looks at how to overcome the ROI hurdle to put in place targeted, outcome driven, wellbeing services

The Return on Investment (ROI) sticking point has had its day. When it comes to putting in place much-needed employee wellbeing interventions it’s now about doing rather than deliberating. Success should be measured in terms of outcomes tailored to individual organisational need. The tools are available, they’re accessible – in fact they needn’t cost a penny for those companies that already have group income protection (IP) in place. All that’s required is a coordinated approach.


“A number of studies over the years have tried to evidence ROI along the lines of: for every £1 spent you get anywhere between £4.00 to £9.50 back. But these tend to be big studies and not company specific. This kind of analysis is very difficult to achieve on a company level. Outcomes, on the other hand, are much simpler: what do you want to achieve? And have you achieved it? That’s all there is to it,” says Alison Pay, Marketing & Operations Director at Mental Health at Work, the latest addition to Generali’s Wellbeing Investment Matching partnerships.


It’s probably safe to say that just about every company in the UK and around the world knows they should be supporting employee wellbeing in some way, shape or form. But coming up with a targeted plan and then getting that plan approved at Board level is no mean feat. The problems largely boil down to ROI, priorities and ill-defined outcomes. Here, we take a look at each aspect in turn.


On the subject of priorities, it’s telling that Edenred’s 2015 Wellbeing Barometer1 found that only 26% of employers see employee wellbeing as a priority, despite a huge 97% believing in the link between wellbeing and organisational performance.


This disparity might have something to do with the fact that most employers are reactive (58%) than proactive in their approach, with employee wellbeing only a formal part of someone’s remit in just over a third of cases (37%). These are the findings of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development’s (CIPDs) Absence Management Report 20162.


Expert commentators expect this situation to change over time as more employers realise the benefits of supporting wellbeing. At present 1 in 3 employees has a long-term condition, 42% of whom feel their condition affects their work, according to a report by public policy research and advice organisation The Work Foundation3. The prevalence of long-term conditions in the working age population is set to increase to 40% by 2030 thanks to a combination of ageing and the associated increase in prevalence of chronic conditions.


Measuring ‘value’ of wellbeing interventions is notoriously difficult but not insurmountable if you instead focus on outcomes, more of which later. And considering all the wellbeing benefits and services a company needs are now available via some group IP providers at no extra cost the ROI hurdle seems largely academic.


“I liken this to companies investing in leadership activities and training,” adds Alison. “Companies don’t measure the success of such things in terms of ROI. Instead they look at whether management practices improve and whether teams are happy and satisfied.”


For any company that did want to look hard stats, it’s telling that group IP, inclusive of wellbeing interventions, starts from around £200 a head, whilst absence costs anywhere between £455 - £820 per employee, depending on industry sector, according to figures taken from XpertHR’s sickness absence benchmarking survey in an article in Personnel Today4. Put that way, there couldn’t be a clearer business case for group IP.


And, as indicated above, wellbeing interventions are part and parcel of group IP and can be extended to the whole workforce of the policyholder (i.e. the employer) not just those individuals covered by group IP. What’s more, if any services were missing that might help an organisation meet an identified wellbeing need, the insurer might well help fund those too. The latter is now offered by Generali in the form of Wellbeing Investment Matching, as mentioned earlier.


This service, first announced in July 2017, sees Generali helping employers fund wellbeing initiatives that might fall out of the remit of group IP added value services via partnerships with the likes of Nuffield Health, Check4Cancer, Doctor Care Anywhere and Mental Health at Work. This brings to employers a whole host of wellbeing services to help them meet very targeted needs, such as: virtual and artificial intelligence GPs; health assessments; health tracking & self-help monitoring; whole body screening using advanced blood testing; cancer detection services; critical incident support; and on-site workshops in everything from stress resilience training, mindfulness and sleeping well to improving work / life balance and achieving goals.



Outcomes are important to help organisations improve efficacy and show quantifiable results. But before looking at how to measure outcomes, it’s important to define what an outcome is. This isn’t immediately obvious as what’s important for one company might be irrelevant to another. It’s important to first define the end goal. For example, this might be to offer onsite physiotherapy to help with physical niggles, aches and pains that are affecting employees in their work, with a view to reducing absence. A baseline measure can be set via a simple online health questionnaire or workplace health assessment, combined with absence and group IP claims data. The physiotherapy intervention is then implemented and the same measures taken again after, say, six months to assess effectiveness.


“It is important to set targets / KPIs that matter to you – the employer, and that you understand,” comments Dr Umang Patel, Clinical Director of virtual GP Babylon. “If a provider offers you 4 x engagement, find out what that means and ask for case studies to show how that has resulted with a positive impact.”


The key is to be clear on the end goal and then integrate all the relevant data sources to ensure successful targeting of initiatives. This obviously entails group IP insurers and wellbeing service providers working in partnership, an aspect that is very much assisted by initiatives such as Generali’s Wellbeing Investment Matching. Collaboration with employees is also vital – their feedback and insights should be central to benchmark setting and ongoing measures.


Jade Croucher, Account Manager at Doctor Care Anywhere, comments: “The best way to monitor and gauge impact of your wellness strategy is to ask employees themselves. 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.”


Anecdotal feedback is just as important as formal questionnaires too. “We try to capture anecdotal feedback during and after our facilitated learning sessions,” comments Alison. “This relies on line managers feeding back comments from employees. We don’t rely on formal questionnaires to gather this kind of information as it should come out organically.”
“We need to collaborate as providers to ensure that what [data] we can gather can be combined to show real world use that can be applied robustly to show ROI,” adds Dr Patel. 


“Personally, I think we are very close to being able to do this. Before, we weren’t able to collect any data at all, now we can measure everything from the average amount of sleep people get to what google searches are done.
“It is now our job to make sure that we translate this data and apply it to ever improving programmes and initiatives to ensure that we make it possible for management’s heads to be able to say ‘yes’ along with their hearts.”


For further information on Generali UK’s wellbeing investment matching initiative and partners, plus a full overview of all the insurer's added-value wellbeing services, please go to http://uam.me/generali-uk/wellbeing17 
Alternatively, contact Generali: eb.enquiries@generali.co.uk



1 Edenred-Ipsos Barometer 2015

2 Absence Management Survey 2016, CIPD

3 Investing in a workforce fit for the future: Challenges for the UK government, The Work Foundation, Health at Work Policy Unit (Sept 2015) http://www.theworkfoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/388_Summary-Report-web-version.pdf

4 Sickness absence rates remain stable, PersonnelToday (Oct 2016)