The Real ROI is outside the square

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A few years back I delivered a series of workshops on health and wellness to a large client. Thirty two workshops were delivered in four months to over 100 employees, hard copy resources provided and one on one coaching for select individuals.

Whilst many participants loved the workshops and thrived on learning how to incorporate simple changes into their life, there was a significant proportion who did not engage as well as the employer would have liked. I could tell they were not connected with what the workshops had to offer.

The important lesson I learnt from this was that the traditional ‘Wellness Program’ approach is not well adopted when it’s not actually something employees feel they need or want. Importantly, this then has a significant impact on return on investment for the organisation who may then not continue wellness initiatives because they feel too hard to measure.

The challenge I see, is that whilst an organisation might offer ‘Wellness’ as part of their employee benefits package, they may not really be in touch with the needs of the individuals who make up their workforce…and hence the ROI will never be achieved.

According to The Gallup Organisation, only 24% of employees at companies that offer a wellness program actually participate in it.  What’s more, only 12% of employees strongly agree that they have substantially higher overall wellbeing because of their employer. Again, this doesn’t build a good case for including a wellness program…but that’s because they are taking the traditional approach.

Here are a few common ‘traditional wellness initiatives’ many companies offer:

A gym membership program which attracts predominately those who ALREADY exercise

Fresh fruit in the lunch room which is usually enjoyed by those who ALREADY include fruit in their diet…and something that is often set aside for a morning or afternoon tea of cake, tim-tams and chips!

A training workshop delivered by a sleep expert who teaches employees how sleep effects performance and how to adopt habits to improve sleep…all well and good if the participants take action and put those habits into place. But that’s not something an employer can enforce an individual to do.

None of these initiatives are incorrect, but the important thing to ask is ARE THEY BEING UTILISED EFFECTIVELY? And if not, what else can the company invest in to create a workforce who are energised and able to give their best at work.

Recently I was listening to a podcast called ‘How Wellbeing Engagement Trumps Wellness’ by Engaging Leaders (a USA based company).  The podcast focused on a new approach to workplace WELLBEING (not wellness), where a ‘whole person approach’ can improve health, employee engagement and the companies bottom-line.

They discussed five universal elements of wellbeing that help employees thrive:

Purpose/Career: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals

Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life

Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security

Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community

Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

I like this approach because it means that an organisation acknowledges that their people are all at different stages of ‘Wellbeing’. It also aligns well with the Being More Human philosophy that your people are your most important and valuable asset and that effective development is holistic.

But how can this be created and measured I hear you ask. What kind of return on investment can this ‘new wellbeing approach’ provide?

The context is important, before looking at ROI:

  1. Employees are already feeling overwhelmed, stressed, disengaged or dissatisfied at work. Starting a wellbeing program without careful consideration of the needs of your people and how to roll it out without increasing the feeling of stress and overwhelm is crucial. Failure to do this will definitely affect ROI.
  2. The leaders of the organisation need to help engage, educate and empower their teams by improving their own wellbeing first. A culture of wellbeing is always created from the top down. In fact you can quadruple the percentage of people who access a wellbeing program by walking the talk and fostering positive culture. Again, ROI is dramatically affected by this fact.
  3. The real ROI comes from thinking outside the square about what equals success. Whilst number crunching might be easier, ROI can also be measured by looking at the following:
  • Is the organisation considered an Employer of Choice – you attract the top talent and people want to stay employed with you?
  • Are your people showing up for work engaged and productive – happy, alert people make less mistakes?
  • Are other business initiatives like workplace safety or even leadership being enhanced by a wellbeing program?

To be seen as an employer of choice where the best in their field want to work there and no one wants to leave because it’s such a great culture – that’s what I call business success and a perfect example of ROI.

If you are ready to implement a NEW approach to WELLBEING in your organisation, my suggestion is to do this:

  1. Find out what your employees currently feel challenged by– surveying, focus groups, intranet forums, team meetings can all extract this information as can HR records for sick leave, EAP usage and workplace injury claims. Make sure your people tell you what is meaningful to them because they will engage with the program more if you do this.
  2. Brainstorm and research potential activities that address these needs– this could include specialised training, small group coaching, social events, resources, team building activities, physical fitness sessions/yoga and so on.
  3. Devise a 12 month calendar where the activities are scheduled in –Not only will this show you are listening to your team and providing support in areas they have highlighted, it also adds a sense of anticipation. Strategically, if you schedule specific activities to coincide with times of the year you know your employees are likely to feel more pressure, you may even side step common issues like burn out, sick leave and stress.
  4. Make sure you have someone driving the calendar, working with HR and internal coms to promote activities and gather feedback so that measurement and return on investment can be more clearly defined.

At the resident ‘Health Nut’ at Being More Human, the team and I are also happy to help you with these steps, ensuring that you develop and implement a program that has value, meaning and leads to happier, healthier and more engaged people…because that is what drives real profit.

Connect with us at Being More Human by emailing me Lisa Mills – Health Nut on *protected email* or the website on

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