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The well-being agenda has been on the priority list for HR leaders for quite some time but in the post-pandemic world, there is a rise in the urgency to implement programs that take into account all aspects of well-being. Offering support to one another to move through these challenging months is critical to building a workforce that is not simply resilient but is also motivated to live up to their full potential. People are at the heart of any organisation’s journey to deliver impact and innovate and hence, how well-being initiatives are carried out must be continuously evaluated and changed accordingly.
This is where the importance of measuring ROI comes in. Any HR initiative that an organisation carries out requires developing a business case and this applies to well-being programs as well. In order to tailor such programs to meet organisational needs, continuous investments need to be made. Be it to drive business growth or ensure a positive employee experience, no organisation can seek to achieve results without keeping the people first.
The need to measure ROI
Gartner’s survey of 50 HR leaders conducted this year showed that 64% of companies provided new well-being offerings to support their staff, while 34% of companies expanded access to their existing offerings. This is evidence of the increasing emphasis on well-being programs among HR leaders and their staff but the challenge of measuring its impact will continue to be prevalent. But leaders must overcome this challenge if they want to cater to the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees.
Kalpak Huddar, HR Head - India & ANZ rightly points out, ‘You should measure ROI in every investment you make. It tells you if the investment is effective or not. More than ROI, we should call them “effect metric". Any engagement that addresses employee well-being and wellness would result in healthier and happier employees which in turn drives better productivity and customer satisfaction.”
An interesting point which Sue Steel, Chief People & Culture Officer, Bizpay shared with People Matters is: ‘Measuring ROI is also important to counter the perception that it’s fashionable for employers to roll out health and well-being programs simply as a way of portraying a responsible corporate image. The only way to truly know whether these programs are hitting the mark and making a difference is to ensure that they are evaluated following implementation, and continually evaluated.’
ROI vs VOI
A significant debate that has come up in measuring the impact of well-being programs is deciding between ROI and VOI. The difference is that the former caters to the management or reduction of health care costs and sick days whose hard data can be easily found and tend to get measured in dollars. What VOI (Value on Investment) does is take a more holistic approach to measure impact which targets the overall employee experience. Data is difficult to find as these are ‘softer measures’ and are often self-reported. However, one thing is certain: one cannot be preferred over the other. Steel affirms that the best companies use both and it is only when company metrics are being tracked across all departments, leaders can check on engagement levels and have developed a culture of physiological safety where staff can speak up and tell what is working and what is not, then organisations have reached their real VOI and ROI metrics.
‘Success should be measured differently based on factors or considerations such as how established your well-being programs are, the tenure of employees or the business challenges your company is facing,’ advocates Jen Wu, VP, People, APAC & EMEA at TEAM LEWIS, the global communications agency. Enrolment and participation figures are great if you want to have a general measure of success. But, especially today where competition for talent is at an all-time high, culture, retention and engagement rank high on the priority list. Running these programs should also be a collaborative effort, HR teams must work with marketing teams to assess employee advocacy – look into who your top advocates are and how employees are sharing work-life content with their peers on social, Jen adds.
Best practices for leaders moving forward
Gartner’s research reveals that only 46% of employees feel that their organisation’s well-being programs are personalised. One size fits all well-being approach simply doesn’t work. Personalisation is key to correcting this but that also requires measuring the impact of well-being programs by moving beyond ROI.
With soft measurements being integral to this endeavour, Steel recommends the use of bi-annual employee engagement surveys as well as employee Net Promoter Score which includes productivity, energy levels, presenteeism, the overall mood and culture as well as sense of purpose. But we must proceed with caution. She further adds, ‘self-reported outcomes suffer from the usual biases – those who are not proficient in English, manual workers, workers who don’t use a computer, shift workers – are less likely to know about and complete surveys. So there has to be extra effort to get to these people – perhaps collecting this information via Toolbox talks or timesheets or verbal surveys rather than written or online’. This raises the point of how in innovating strategies to measure impact, inclusivity must not be overlooked.
Jen talks about how the focus in measuring impact should be on trends; it is only when leaders are flexible and open to making adjustments by identifying positive or negative trends can real impact be delivered because catering to the well-being of employees is not a one-time process. Because people are more than numbers. She also advises leaders to build avenues that will help collect a variety of views along with consistent reporting metrics. Engagement surveys can be carried out both on a large and small scale. Exit interview feedback can also be leveraged to take pre-emptive measures wherever needed to enhance and ensure well-being in the workplace.
It cannot be denied that the present context is completely different with a hybrid working model in place. This itself pushes leaders to innovate strategies to measure the impact of well-being programs because the old metrics are no longer sufficient to measure the diverse circumstances and incorporate the diverse needs. Well-being initiatives have to not only be open to personalisation but also have to continuously be adapted to the changing circumstances.
This requires all leaders to sink their hands into what’s working and what isn’t and to increase their access to knowledge from all fronts and ensure that every voice is heard. It is no longer about meeting business needs and cutting down costs, it is also ensuring that the people who are part of your journey in this transformed world of work are always taken care of.