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Wellbeing Value: It’s Not All About the Bottom Line

July 14, 2016 / Uncategorized

Virgin Pulse analyticsMeasuring wellbeing program results with real-time metrics for sustained engagement, improved program management and success

Virgin Pulse is a groundbreaking player in defining and delivering wellbeing programs, transforming the way employers regard wellbeing as an essential component to their benefits offerings. We share deeper insights and outcomes with program stakeholders to lead the charge toward strategic wellbeing.

Jennifer Jones, Senior Product Marketing Manager, spoke with Virgin Pulse’s Dr. Rajiv Kumar, President and Chief Medical Officer, and Andrew Jacobus, Vice President of Analytics, to get a closer look at the growing role integrated analytics play and the value they create in ensuring a successful wellbeing program implementation and management.

Jennifer:  HR Analytics seems to be coming to the fore as businesses recognize how analytics transform marketing, sales, and other areas of business.  How do you see analytics impacting the wellbeing space?

Rajiv: Workforce analytics have come a long way as a practice for HR, and we’re helping our clients continue to innovate and evolve those practices. The advent of real analytics in the employee wellbeing space is nothing short of a game-changer. For years, employers have been operating their wellness programs on good intentions and intuition. They fundamentally believe that investing in the wellbeing of their employees is the right thing to do, and also believe that it will ultimately pay financial dividends for the company over the long run. However, very few of them have attempted to truly measure the true impact of their investments. That’s now changing – and quickly. We’ve seen a massive uptick in the number of employers who want to partner with us to harness the incredible amount of data we collect via our web platform, mobile app, Max wearable activity tracker, onsite health stations, health risk assessments, and biometric screenings. They’re asking us to take that data, merge it with other business and third-party data that they can share with us, and help them find actionable insights that can allow them to ascertain valuable outcomes and make smarter business decisions. Analytics is the bridge that will finally take employee wellness programs from “nice-to-have” to “need-to-have” status.

Jennifer: Talk about how the analytics and insights help various stakeholders in the HR world— C-suite, HR leader, Wellness Director or Chief Medical Officer.

Andrew: While people in those roles likely have strong support for well-being, they often have different needs at our client companies, due to varied responsibilities and – sometimes – differing expectations of success. Virgin Pulse is data-rich and culturally analytically -minded, so we offer a breadth of solutions and aim to align the right insights to meet the measurement needs of various stakeholders. We do that using both our own data and third party insights, like biometrics and healthcare costs. For instance, our reporting tool shows the Chief Medical Officer how their population has shifted over time to healthier profiles, and S/he can analyze to see which populations and even job groups need help. Or if we have the right data, we can show risk reductions in critical health conditions like diabetes and increased cardiovascular risks.

Of course, The Chief Financial Officer probably wants to see reductions in medical costs and a positive overall wellbeing investment ROI, and we collaborate to model, forecast, and prove that in a deeper dive.  At a couple of our clients, the CEO wants to know that this program is making his or her company a great place to work and a more productive work environment. Utilizing our clients’ Net Promoter surveys and our own member surveys, we can produce an NPS score, and supplement it with more quantified measures like savings in unscheduled time off and improvements in production quality or call center satisfaction.

The Wellness officer wants to be able to prove all of these things, from activation and engagement to support the management all the way to broad-reaching ROI to reinforce investment in the program. They’ll get all of the insights we have to offer and often partner with us on innovating for new insights.  Since we are so data-rich, we are covering a lot of bases.

Jennifer: Can you give some examples of how Virgin Pulse customers have measured the success of their program, their investment, their VOI?

Andrew: Success is measured in many different ways. Success for a new customer might be getting people to be aware of the program and actively engaged, so they see activation and engagement rate metrics showing enrollment and frequency of activity, in a daily updated dashboard.

Investment generally means total cost of the program and incentives measured against savings in terms of medical costs and prescription cost reductions. ROI studies that have been done for our clients by independent third parties have proven positive returns just in terms of medical and prescription claims savings alone.  But our value-on-investment (VOI) model is more comprehensive, yet flexible and adaptable to a company’s specific needs. We have shown positive impact on business and talent concerns like absence, safety, performance and productivity, turnover, and even customer quality and customer satisfaction.

I’ll give you an example: We know that across our entire book of business, Virgin Pulse members who are actively engaged with the program are up to 50% less likely to leave their organizations as those who don’t get actively involved. If a company can find a way to move two additional people onto the program, then that will help retain one of those employees.  Studies show that turnover costs a minimum of about one third of an annual salary, so at the average United States salary of about $46,000, every two new Virgin Pulse members saves at least $15,000 per year.

Another client study we performed found engaged members were half as likely to have a safety incident, and this population only cost the company one-third as much in worker’s compensation claims costs as those who didn’t enroll in the program.  To me, this insight created a strategic alternative – Virgin Pulse enrollment campaigns – to help achieve their business goal of a safer work environment.

Jennifer: How have Virgin Pulse analytics influenced the evolution of the programs we offer?

Rajiv: In addition to satisfying our clients’ hunger for analytics, we also feed our insights to our product development team. They take these insights and use them to make our products more engaging and more effective for our members. For example, we’ve seen that our mobile app usage has now eclipsed our web platform utilization. Not only that, but most of the mobile app activity happens outside of normal working hours, especially at night and on the weekends. That tells us that our mobile app is becoming a valuable personal tool for people to track and sustain their habits wherever they go, and supports how we’ve shifted to a mobile-first mindset for all new product development. Another example is an analysis we did on how spouses or partners affect a member’s engagement and activity levels. It turns out that when we allow a member to invite a spouse or partner to the program, the member’s own engagement and physical activity levels increase significantly. As a result, we’ve given every member 10invites so they can enjoy the social support, accountability, and motivation that comes from participating alongside the people in their life.

Jennifer: What advice do you have for customers and others looking to engage in a wellbeing program?

Rajiv: I think you should know at the beginning what you hope to accomplish from the program in the long term, as most customers, in our experience, don’t realize enough value by going year-to-year. I recommend looking at sustained wellbeing program engagement for as much of your population as possible. That means keeping it fresh and spending some time and resources to embed a healthier cultural mindset.

Andrew: When you’re beginning to implement, plan to get your data managers involved early to help establish the mechanisms to be able to measure success at the very beginning, and look for your providers to help you evolve that definition of success over time.  And look to learn from them!  Your providers should be able to help you design a wellbeing program that maximizes results for both the employees and the company, based on successes of other customers, and makes the cost an afterthought.

How can online analytics and program insights directly impact your business? Download our guide to learn more.


Dr. Rajiv Kumar is President and Chief Medical Officer of Virgin Pulse. He joined Virgin Pulse in 2016 following the company’s acquisition of ShapeUp, the global employee wellbeing company that he founded in 2006. Follow him on Twitter at @RajivKumarMD

Andrew Jacobus is Vice President of Analytics at Virgin Pulse. Andrew has spent over 20 years in Analytics, Human Capital, and Strategic Workforce Planning. His specialty is turning data into insights and getting predictive with those insights—particularly about people and productivity. Follow him on Twitter at @ACJacobus

Jennifer Jones, Senior Product Marketing Manager joined Virgin Pulse in 2015. Throughout her marketing career, she has spread the word about products and services that change people’s lives for good through education, HRM thought leadership, mindfulness and work-life balance. She has found the ultimate combination of those various paths in the work she does at Virgin Pulse. Follow her on Twitter at @jenjonz13

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