Gethin Nadin

Gethin Nadin

Chief Innovation Officer

Throughout 2019 and 2020, CEOs and people leaders frequently listed employee wellbeing as a top priority. In 2021, 96% of employers say they agree it is their responsibility to improve employee health, and almost 80% say they expect to have a specific wellbeing budget within the next 12 months. Nonetheless, there is a strong expectation that the long-term financial impact of Covid-19 will squeeze budgets across pay, bonuses, and benefit packages. Return on investment in employee benefits and, as part of that, the performance of health and wellness strategies, are going to be under closer scrutiny than ever.

As a result, HR and Reward leaders – who are increasingly finding themselves looking after employee wellbeing – are under pressure to prove the value of all their health and wellbeing initiatives… but what metrics should they be using?

Setting goals on a global level

Capturing meaningful data and analysing it scientifically to quantify the impact is notoriously difficult. Throw in an international dimension and you can start to see why many reward leaders find it difficult to adopt meaningful (and realistically attainable) measurement criteria that take account of nuances in cultural, social and legal norms in different economies around the world.

It’s easy to fall into a trap of false equivalence when trying to make international comparisons in the workplace. In parts of Asia, voluntary turnover rates are higher due to the nature of the job market and a different mindset to career development. Consequently, employee retention targets here are likely to be different than in Europe. Another example where comparative statistics don’t stack up is EAP access. For example, in Latin America, EAPs are seeing an uptick in adoption, but there is still a much lower take-up rate than in Europe, which makes like-for-like comparisons unhelpful.

Perhaps the starkest difficulty in global measurement comes from the divergent approaches to healthcare around the world. In countries with no state medical provision, healthcare insurance arguably has a greater potential impact; not just on physical wellness, but on emotional wellbeing, financial wellbeing, engagement and the likelihood of an employee staying with the organisation. Metrics on access to, and even use of, such healthcare schemes are likely to miss the wider significance of healthcare benefits in certain countries.

The value of subjective over objective measures

Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”, and in the world of international wellbeing measures this is certainly true. The things we can prove through raw data (for example, how much someone earns) don’t always hold as much significance as more subjective assessments (for example, how someone feels about how much they earn). This is why there is value, particularly for international measurement, in subjective metrics; asking employees what they think. This is especially true when measuring the success of things like mental health initiatives where regional stigmas may affect take up. For example, do they feel supported at work? Is the initiative making a difference? Do they feel better-able to manage their mental health because of what’s in place?

Getting to a global wellness NPS

Some cultures will have a greater reticence than others to share their views and concerns openly. A longitudinal ‘Wellness NPS’ survey will enable you to assess how you much your health and wellbeing benefits are valued and understood. With careful design, it will also give you a local measure of progress against your wellness objectives. It’s important that this benchmark is localised; so you are measuring not just the subjective views of employees in that region, but also the relative changes in their feedback over time.

The bottom line

HR heads and Chief People Officers need to be clear on their agenda for wellbeing. For many, it is still a knee jerk, tactical reaction to absenteeism where the success measure is simply, ‘did it pay for itself?’ rather than, ‘is it making a difference to people’s lives?’. By shifting that thinking, global HR leaders can start to measure the impact of the things that do make a difference to peoples’ wellbeing and be ready to prove the business case for an ongoing international health and wellbeing strategy.

Gethin Nadin

Gethin Nadin

Chief Innovation Officer

Gethin is an award-winning psychologist who has been helping some of the world’s largest organisations to improve their employee experience and wellbeing for more than two decades. The last 11 years have been spent working as part of the senior leadership team at Benefex where Gethin leads thought leadership as Chief Innovation Officer.

As a frequent writer and speaker on employee experience and employee wellbeing, Gethin has been featured in Forbes, The Guardian, The Sun, The Huffington Post and The Financial Times as well as all major HR, Reward and Pensions publications. Gethin has been listed as one of the world’s top 101 Global Employee Experience Influencers for the last two years running, is listed on the Employee Engagement Powerlist, is one of LinkedIn’s top global contributors and an Inspiring Leader 2021. Gethin is also a regular keynote speaker, ex-Chair of Wellbeing at the UK Government-backed Engage for Success and a Fellow at the RSA.

In 2018, Gethin published his first book - the HR bestseller ‘A World of Good: Lessons From Around the World in Improving the Employee Experience’, which has gone on to inspire HR and Reward teams at some of the world’s best known brands. In early 2022, Gethin co-authored his second book ‘Das Menschliche Büro - The Human(e) Office’ a collaboration between leading academics and workplace professionals from across Europe. In October 2022, Gethin published his “third” book ‘A Work In Progress: Unlocking Wellbeing to Create More Sustainable and Resilient Organisations’ which also became an immediate bestseller.

A World of Good: Lessons from Around the World in Improving the Employee Experience
A Work In Progress: Unlocking Wellbeing to Create More Sustainable and Resilient Organisations