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Measuring Return on Investment: Making the case for employee wellbeing

Published: 13/08/2021

With no playbook for measuring return on investment (ROI) for wellbeing initiatives, where on earth should employers start? asks Vitality’s Director of Corporate Business, Pippa Andrews.

Covid-19 helped reinforce what most of us know already about health and wellbeing – whether in a pandemic scenario or not – but often choose to ignore: namely, the healthier we are, the better our chances of survival. And for employers, it has opened their eyes to the fact that healthy workforces really are the ‘be all and end all’ to the bottom line.

The worry is that these lessons will become lost as restrictions are lifted and the pressures of businesses increase to full pelt.

The employer case for investing in wellbeing – a long-term approach.

It’s organisations that realise that wellbeing should be embraced as a full-time strategy, with a purpose, a framework, communicated in a tailored way and led from the top, that will reap the rewards in terms of usage, value and a culture that engages and excites. That, in turn – and over time – translates into happier, more productive employees, ergo organisational prosperity and sustainability.

Overcoming challenges and communicating wellbeing value.

While intent certainly seems to be there, measuring return on investment (ROI) is easier said than done. Despite the fact that only 9% of employers currently measure the ROI from their health and wellbeing programme, 59% plan to do so in the next 12 – 18 months1. However, it shouldn’t even be considered before taking a forensic look at your current wellbeing programme.

“For most organisations, wellbeing is characterised by a set of disjointed benefits, services, apps and ‘initiatives’; each communicated separately, in a broadcast, one-size-fits-all way”

Pippa Andrews, Director of Corporate Business, Vitality
At the same time, the larger the organisation, the more siloed the people departments. Think HR, Reward & Benefits, Learning & Development, Health & Safety, Occupational Health. So, important data – such as risk assessment outcomes – isn’t necessarily being shared in a way that allows organisations to make better use of existing benefits and services. 

What’s more, employee views are rarely sought in a way that translates into programme design and communication changes.

Implementing schemes and achieving engagement.

But with no playbook for any of this, where on earth should employers start?

Ask first, what is the purpose of the benefit and wellbeing strategy and assess whether it is currently being fulfilled. Is it aligned with company values? Does it meet employee needs? Is it communicated in a way that connects with all the different audiences in a diverse workforce? And is it being assessed against the things that matter to business?

All too often, health and wellbeing initiatives, contracts or products are just assessed on price and a narrow range of minimum criteria, rather than performance against a measurable objective linked to business outcomes.

The upshot? Only 27% of UK employees feel their employer cares about their overall wellbeing2

Let’s consider some of the key components of a purpose-led wellbeing strategy:

1. Stakeholder advocates
Wellbeing must be lived and breathed amongst leaders and line managers in order to be truly felt, believed and trusted by an organisation’s people. 
Who talks about wellbeing, how frequently and on what stage, can all signal to employees its importance to leadership and the organisation. The CEO emphasising wellbeing regularly through business updates, then reinforcing this through line managers and digital communications can send a powerful message. For an even better chance of success, ensure clear lines of accountability and get employee advocates involved.
2. Insight
Tailoring wellbeing strategy to people and business needs is paramount; in terms of programme design and also communication. An employer cannot possibly hope to meet people needs if they haven’t taken the trouble to get to know them; how they prefer to work and socialise (to help determine the right communication channels) and what interests them (to get the design and messaging right).
3. Strategy
With the insight in place, it’s now possible to create a strategy for what wellbeing means to the organisation and create objectives. This should be specific and measurable, allowing you to gauge your success and refine your efforts. This targeted approach can assist in creating a stronger business case and in maximising impact and return on investment.
4. Measuring health and wellbeing
Insights can be used to also assess the impact of a programme over time, and to help direct when to change priorities. Combined with business outcome data such as absence, recruitment and retention statistics, an organisation can make informed decisions about tweaks to programme design and communication to help better meet people and business needs. 

Vitality can help here, with our recently launched ROI reports; a free, comprehensive and personalised report in five minutes by using Vitality’s ROI calculator and completing just four questions about a business. 

The calculator is available to advisers as well as both current and prospective Vitality clients. It analyses the impact of the Vitality Programme on key health and lifestyle areas such as physical activity, smoking and nutrition, along with its impact on clinical risk factors including: blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and BMI. Improvement in each of these risk factors can be associated with positive impacts on individuals’ health (resulting in higher life expectancy), workplace health-related productivity and job satisfaction.

Wellbeing has come a long way from fruit bowls and bean bags. So, employers can write their own playbook by working with insurers and intermediaries to put the pointers supplied here into action and secure that buy-in at board level. 

Find out how we give your corporate clients high-quality, comprehensive health cover alongside a complete wellness package that can help boost employee engagement and make them more productive.

New: Return on Investment Tool

Using insights from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace and the Vitality Programme, the Vitality Return of Investments Calculator estimates the impact of different employee risk factors on a business. Understand the health and wellbeing initiatives most likely to improve results in just five minutes and see comparisons to similar companies in that industry.
Use the tool
Find out more about how Vitality’s Serious Illness Cover can offer more relevant, comprehensive cover for your clients:

Where to next?

  • Future of health insurance

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  • Healthy Hybrid Report

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  • Insights Hub

    Our Insights Hub brings you our range of adviser content - from video series to articles & blogs.

1Aon Benefits and Trends Survey 2021
2Gallup, Why UK leaders need to build trust with their employees, June 2020