The Case for Wellbeing: HR Analytics & Business Performance

Andrew Jacobus, VP of Analytics, Virgin Pulse

Andrew Jacobus, VP of Analytics, Virgin Pulse

In 2016, there was a big shift in employee wellbeing and engagement program management. More than ever before, HR and benefits administrators felt the need to quantify the results of long-running wellbeing and wellness programs, creating a greater imperative to tie individual health outcomes—like improved BMI or lower stress—to tangible business outcomes.

It’s a complicated task.

Historically, Human Resource and benefits leaders have struggled to prove ROI on wellbeing programs. While there’s an innate understanding that wellbeing is important—that there is a strong link between healthier employees and critical business results like productivity, engagement, and retention—hard data and firm relationships have been harder to quantify. Making the case for wellbeing has been elusive and a gut instinct isn’t always enough to justify an investment in wellbeing. For years, we’ve had to wonder: is wellbeing worth it?

"We now know that wellbeing programs are not merely instrumental in improving individual health, they’re also essential for maintaining organizational health"

Luckily, the time of investment by intuition is coming to a close. With more than ten years of experience working with clients on their wellbeing strategies, Virgin Pulse has amassed data and insights that prove that investments in wellbeing are having a positive impact on the business, particularly on employee engagement. And with 68 percent of US employees reporting disengagement at work—a statistic tied to between $450 and $550 billion in expenses each year— wellbeing is proving itself to be a critical business strategy.

The following statistics gathered from Virgin Pulse’s book of business make a strong statement about the value of wellbeing:

Wellbeing programs measurably boost company culture, with an average of 78 percent of members saying they feel their company cares about their health.

For employees to be fully engaged at work, they need to feel appreciated. Wellbeing programs are a way to make it clear that employees are valued, not just for the work they do, but for who they are as people. By providing individuals with the tools they need to address their specific health challenges and meet their particular wellbeing goals, wellbeing programs empower employees, both on the job and at home. It’s a strong cultural statement with a big impact—in a recent study, 50 percent of respondents said that corporate culture influences productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value, and growth rates.

Wellbeing program participants are 49 percent more productive and take 31 percent fewer sick days than their counterparts.

Business performance relies on employees doing their job well, day after day. Workplace wellbeing programs show a marked influence on individual productivity, providing employees with the tools and resources they need to be focused, energized, and engaged at work. Investing in personal health and wellbeing leads to more than a third fewer sick days, further ensuring consistent business performance and success.

Turnover is 29 percent lower for engaged wellbeing participants.

Employee turnover is a keen barometer of company culture, employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity. When turnover is healthy, your business is functioning well. Wellbeing programs improve internal culture, driving passion and success, with 46 percent of members stating they are more engaged at work and 64 percent saying they are proud of their company culture. Plus, there are financial benefits to lower turnover. According to the Center for American Progress, current estimates suggest it costs around 20 percent of an employee’s annual salary to replace them.

With this new data, we now know that wellbeing programs are not merely instrumental in improving individual health, they’re also essential for maintaining organizational health.

Insights like these are just the beginning. In 2017 and beyond, HR and wellbeing analytics will become more sophisticated, revealing the relationship between employee sleep and worker’s compensation claims, for example, or the correlation between physical activity levels, productivity, and business profitability. In addition, rapid advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning suggest there will soon be ripe opportunity to offer predictive modeling, actionable data, and real-time proof of the ways better individual health outcomes impact performance, engagement, and culture.

It’s a time of rapid innovation in the field of HR and wellbeing analytics. In the months and years ahead, the industry is poised to better understand how employee health, social dynamics, and workplace wellbeing can drive successful businesses. But there’s no need to wait. With the right analytics tools and partners, HR and benefits executives can have powerful quantitative data and actionable insights that will help advance company performance, organizational goals, and the employee experience. 

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