Measuring the Value of Well-Being Programs

By Cynthia Ring

This article was originally posted on HRZone.

In today’s competitive job market, companies are looking for new and innovative ways to set themselves apart to talent. Organizations continue to invest in workplace well-being programs in an effort to improve the overall employee experience. While many offer some type of wellness program, be it gym reimbursement or health screenings, having a program for the sake of the program is not benefiting organizations or employees.

As HR leaders research and implement different well-being  offerings, it’s important they look beyond the physical aspect of programming and instead take a broader view of the whole person.  Having a focus on the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial health of your employees is a more viable approach to addressing wellness.

For example, many wellness programs focus on screenings and very narrow health outcomes (e.g. cholesterol levels), and while  screenings have their place as a convenience for people interested in understanding biometrics, they do little to help people achieve and maintain health. These programs also tend to attract a smaller segment of the workforce that are already healthy. Instead, a portion of the program budget should be focused on the broader worksite experience. The food we eat, moderate physical activity and even our working environment can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing. These changes could be as simple as adding more healthy food options, designating walking paths and providing anytime digital supports for areas like sleep, cognitive performance, and purpose.  As the program becomes more steeped in the work experience, it also becomes more integral to how employees operate.

As with any well-being program, to sustain and achieve the desired outcomes, it is important to follow up on the effectiveness of the programs, measure employee interest and keep the offerings fluid as employee needs and desires change. Picking a program at random and never checking on its success is a sure way to disengage employees and see minimal return. Therefore, as organizations look to incorporate more diverse ways to attract and retain talent, HR teams must look at the value of investment (VOI) of well-being programs as a vital piece of their employee experience and engagement strategies.

Why VOI instead or ROI?

Human resources leaders should not hitch their wagon to ROI for well-being programs because there are too many variables that impact health care costs that often mask the real impact a well-being strategy can have. Consider catastrophic claims, medical cost inflation and market dynamics — in a year where all of these things present themselves, you may miss the real value that your well-being programs are having in increasing presenteeism, creativity and happiness at work. Happiness or connectedness is proven to have a positive impact on productivity and reduce turnover, both important to the overall sustainability and financial health of your organization.

A more meaningful way to measure well-being programs is VOI. VOI looks at both tangible and intangible assets that contribute to an organization’s performance and may include knowledge, processes, the organizational structure, ability to collaborate as well as turnover, overall costs and productivity. It is important to look beyond the tangible and better understand the strength in focusing on social cohesion of teams, employee morale, the physical, technological and cultural environment a company creates for its people to thrive and create in and if those things are cultivated and intentionally attended to, well-being achieves the value of its investment. In a highly competitive talent landscape, these intangible strategies are what is expected by all employees and when companies nurture these, they win the war for talent and therefore their business strategies.

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Cynthia Ring is the Chief People Officer at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care