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How to Measure the Success of a Wellness Program, According to A Global Wellbeing Expert

February 24, 2020 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

Written By: Gabrielle Purchon

The most successful wellbeing programs are flexible and adaptable. They are carefully designed to meet the needs of an organization and can (and should!) change over time.

What does this mean for reporting? Well, in some cases, it means you’re not comparing apples to apples or the same data sets year over year. It could also mean that your definition of success might change along with your program.

That’s why it’s essential to establish best practices for measuring the success of a wellbeing program right from the beginning. A flexible framework provides room to grow and accommodates changing health needs in your population. When you set this up from the get-go, it’s easier to determine meaningful benchmarks and report on your program’s success year after year.

To help us define these best practices, we called in an expert. Virginia Peddicord, Director of Global Employee Population Health at Merck, knows more than a thing or two about measuring the success of a wellbeing program. She’s made Merck’s wellness program a key part of LIVE IT — their signature culture of wellbeing. Their program spans over 35,000 employees located across the world.

During a recent webinar, we had the opportunity to pick Peddicord’s brain. Read on for expert advice on how to measure the success of an employee wellbeing program.

1. Assess Your Data

How do you begin measuring a wellbeing program? Well, you might want to start with what you’re able to measure.

According to Peddicord, Merck is a data-driven organization, so they searched throughout the organization for information that they could use. They combined data from their health risk assessment, their data warehouse that captures pharmacy and medical claims, their disability data and high-level population data.

Combining granular data with high-level information provides a more well-rounded view of what’s going on. “We’re always looking at our population from a high level,” Peddicord told us. HIPPA laws prevent organizations from looking at individual health data, but a company the size of Merck can review very large sample sizes.

This allowed them to segment their population based on different health needs. “When we did this,” Peddicord said, “we saw that 80% of our cost for healthcare is for only 20% of our members.” As a result, they knew that they needed to treat these two groups differently, both with resource allocation and with reporting.

Peddicord notes that some data is more difficult to get than others. Absenteeism, for example, presents some challenges. Merck doesn’t capture employee absences because not all employees use time clocks. Productivity offers another tricky data point. Short-term disability, long-term disability, worker’s comp, worker replacement cost, lower employee morale and higher turnover are also metrics that can prove challenging to measure but informative if you can get them.

To get to these different, more nuanced metrics, Peddicord used models created by IDBI, which is a think tank for metrics and wellbeing. The company also did an internal survey to find out how people were feeling. From that, Peddicord and her team came up with two strategic foci: improve health in targeted areas and establish a workplace that promotes wellness by emphasizing daily habits. Now, those two foci underpin the way they measure the success of their corporate wellness program.

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2. Determine the Metrics You Want to Look at Over Time

Once you’ve got a grasp on what you can measure and well-defined goals for your wellbeing program, it’s time to determine which business objectives will indicate success over time.

Discover the impacts wellbeing has on your bottom line and why organizations are pivoting from ROI to VOI.

For Peddicord, it’s “productivity, disability metrics and engagement. Plus, some more cutting-edge measures of business performance.”

One of those measures is called value added per employee. This is calculated by adding operating income, employee compensation, depreciation and non-income taxes, then dividing the sum by the total number of employees that you have. The dividend of that equation shows how productive each employee is being towards the bottom line. Seeing value added per employee growing over time is a good thing, and you want to make sure that you’re looking at these metrics over time, year after year.

Other metrics to use to measure the success of a wellbeing program could include healthcare costs, program awareness, participation rates, worker morale, behavior change, risk reduction, the slope of medical claims payments, company stock price or retention.

3. Get Leadership to Buy-In

For any wellbeing program to be successful, you need corporate leadership to invest and believe in the initiative. How do you do that?

“Understand what the drivers are,” Peddicord said. “What goals are the C-suite held to? What are the board members expecting from them?”

If you’re a publicly-traded company, you can count on improved stock price being the most important driver, but what’s underneath that? When you can definitively show a correlation between health and wellbeing initiatives and business outcomes that tie to those overarching goals, you’ll get more C-suite attention.

4. Put People First

Lastly, it’s important to look beyond the numbers and consider the real, human impact of your wellbeing program. Behind every medical claim or absence is a real person. Improving health outcomes for your people should always be a driving force behind your wellbeing strategy and measurement.

“When we look at our data, we’re always trying to understand the health of our population and then address those areas where we see a need,” says Peddicord. And I can tell you that in 2020, the need is for a population to rally around mental health, making sure that we are helping people better deal with stress and helping those that do have mental health conditions get the right access to quality providers. That will be an area that we continue to focus on.”

Join us in this webinar replay to learn how you can best measure the success and impact of your wellbeing program.

 

About The Author

Gabrielle is the content marketing manager and strategist at Virgin Pulse. Her adventurous and food-seeking attitude has led her to jump out of planes and dine at one of the best restaurants in the world. But as someone who strives for balance, you can also find her enjoying quiet moments with a book or face planting in the sand come summer.

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