Selecting a corporate wellbeing service (that staff will actually use)

When it comes to providing health and wellbeing support for employees, too often we hear phrases like ‘tick box exercises’ or ‘we feel we ought to do something’, but no real thought is put into exactly what support gets put into place for employees.

Without the due care and attention to what services are included in the various wellbeing packages you’re looking at, you can end up buying into a lot of services which sound nice on paper, but are ultimately of no real benefit to your staff. Even if the cost to this is small, it will still be wasted if nobody uses the service.

To that end it is worth asking a few more questions of providers who are seemingly able to offer long, detailed lists of a plethora of services all of which are included for a tiny fee, because the only way this fee can be achieved is if the services are used very rarely by staff. Although these can be nice as a ‘just in case’ scenario for your staff, for the most part you won’t see value from such a service.

So when choosing a wellbeing service for your staff, whether that takes the form of occupational health, corporate wellbeing, fast-track health services, health cash plans, employee benefits portals, or any of the other services available, consider some of these key points.

What will staff benefit from?

Perhaps the most obvious factor as to whether a service is worthwhile, is to ascertain whether staff will actually use the service. To achieve a long and exciting list of services for a competitive price, it is not uncommon for providers to include services which sound colourful but don’t get used very often, or worse still aren’t actually what they seem.

For example when a self-help programme, or specialist support is included in a package, you should always check what this actually includes. Are there one-to-one sessions that employees can access? Is there an online course with different tasks or exercises to complete? Or is it just a load of factsheets and printouts that will never get read?

What will our business benefit from?

Ok, so free doughballs with your pizza are nice, but as a service funded by an employer is that really the most beneficial service you can provide?

As an employer, you want to focus on services that are mutually beneficial to both you and the employee. For example a happy, healthy employee will be more productive in the workplace. They will be culturally better for their colleagues, and will have greater tenure and lower rates of absence. Ultimately this is far more pleasant for the employee, but it also reduces costs through recruitment fees, training, sickness pay and lost clients.

So look for services that are going to actually help your employees at a time where they need it. Some valuable, well used services include fast access to mental or physical health therapy (such as counselling or physiotherapy) or support with optical and dental care.

How do staff access the services?

Another way of ensuring that a service which sounds comprehensive, can be offered so cheaply, is by providers ensuring that it is difficult for staff to access the service. So it’s worth considering how and when your employees will be able to use the services you’ve paid for.

We know from our own data that accessing services online initially (either by an online client area, or a smartphone app) is by far the most popular approach for staff engaging with services. This is because there is no pressure at all on an employee, who can take time to read up about the service and consider if it’s right for them before choosing to engage.

These can also be accessed 24-hours a day, quietly and privately.

Unfortunately, telephone helplines are generally the least used mediums for this reason. Physical forms that need completing and returning (either by post or by email) can also represent an unnecessary hurdle for employees, and severely harm overall usage, so be aware of any provider who does not provide a good, easy to use portal. You may even wish to ask for a demonstration of this before committing to the service.

How can I (accurately) measure usage?

Beware of companies who will manually, at your request, produce a usage report. Especially if it’s one that you can’t verify.

It is in an organisation’s interest to artificially inflate the usage stats to demonstrate good value for the service. Often when the service can be accessed anonymously, there can be no way of verifying this.

At the Smart Clinic we have run a number of experiments with providers by measuring employee engagement ourselves, and then asking for a usage report and comparing it with what we know to be accurate. Sadly, we have observed large disparities between the two.

A simple of way of knowing that statistics are available and accurate, is being able to monitor usage in real time via an online client area or portal. This is technically simple for organisations to implement, so if this is not available as part of your package you can assume that there is a reason for this.

Is it good value for money?

Value for money, and therefore the price of the service, will always be a determining factor in the service you select. A high price is not always a guaranteed indicator of quality, especially for some larger organisations who rely on brand strength rather than quality of service to drive their prices up.

Of course value for money will be a factor of usage, so as above always ensure that you are adopting a service that will actually be used, and which you can accurately monitor the usage of.

Value for money will also be influenced by the service that is provided to your staff, and the effects it will have. A service that is likely to benefit both employee and employer (whether directly or indirectly) will probably be considered better value for money, than something that is for the employee only.

Are there any hidden costs?

This seems self-explanatory, but it is always worth asking the question. In our experience, very few providers will hide any costs away because they know that organisations will need to approve further spending, but nevertheless it is worth asking the question.