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Do you know how well your employee wellbeing strategy works?

By Robin Kahn and Ray Baumruk | November 29, 2021

As the year winds down it is a perfect time to rethink and revisit your wellbeing strategy including how to maximize a listening program that includes dedicated surveys and focus groups.
Health and Benefits|Benessere integrato|Employee Experience

Employers understand the importance of employee wellbeing and are making it a high priority. We found that 85% of employers consider wellbeing one of their top three health care priorities, according to the 2021 Willis Towers Watson Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey. We expect employee wellbeing to transform from a foundation built on a portfolio of dynamic benefits and programs into a critical element to the overall talent value proposition.

Yet developing a comprehensive employee wellbeing strategy involves a variety of insights from health care cost drivers, financial stress indicators, social determinants of health and the voice of the employee. If the success of a wellbeing program is based on the measurement of employee engagement, turnover, attraction and employee appreciation, then the voice of the employee requires its own micro strategy that includes different ways to collect information on employee needs. When reviewing an employee wellbeing program, start by answering some basic but important questions such as:

  • How do I know how well my people are in terms of health, wealth and career?
  • What do my employees prefer for perks and programs?
  • Is our offering relevant to their needs?

Why do we think this is a crucial element in building the right wellbeing strategy? When we correlate employees who are doing well across all four dimensions of wellbeing — physical, emotional, social and financial — they then have the capacity to perform at their peak. It is a great overall employee experience that then provides the path to unleashing that wellbeing to drive superior performance and results. Employers can develop successful wellbeing listening strategies that measure the level of wellbeing through:

  • Dedicated wellbeing surveys
  • Focus groups
Dedicated wellbeing survey

While there are some metrics that can provide insight into how well employees are doing, they won’t tell you everything. The easy answer is “ask them.” Many employers do this, but to substantially varying degrees. For example, some organizations may have one or two questions in their annual engagement surveys — a good start to understanding your employees’ perception and needs. But with most employers having a variety of wellbeing programs, a dedicated wellbeing survey is the opportunity to better understand which aspects of a program are perceived as most valuable and potentially which changes are needed to better meet key employee priorities or better impact their overall wellbeing as well as improve how money is spent.

Furthermore, the engagement survey usually doesn’t help identify where employees are excelling and struggling. Understanding the current state of wellbeing among your people requires more depth to understand which dimensions need more attention and who needs more resources. Since wellbeing priorities and experiences vary significantly among different segments of your population, not just from an age or job perspective, but other aspects such as race or family structure, you need to understand employee data at a more detailed level, in terms of specific employee populations to identify where action may be most impactful. Understanding employee wellbeing also requires greater frequency, as our research shows that wellbeing varies substantially and changes more frequently. Employers can conduct a dedicated wellbeing surveys with as few as 12 questions around the globe to measure how employees are doing across the four dimensions of wellbeing.

Focus group listening

Asking employees and quantifying those insights are critical and help generate metrics, but digging down deeper and gaining greater insights on wellbeing programs requires focus-group listening. Whether conducted virtually or in-person, or through interviews or unstructured data/comment analytics (sentiment, theme, etc.) collected from social or other employee voice channels, focus group listening provides valuable insights, answering questions about why people may feel the way they do as well as surfacing ideas for how to address challenges or take greater advantage of potential opportunities for change and improvement. Potential groups to target include:

  • Leaders: Employers often ask leaders to be role models and voices for wellbeing. Before that though, it is vital to understand how they view wellbeing within the organization, what will differentiate the wellbeing strategy and how to prioritize the wellbeing needs of the workforce.
  • Wellbeing champions: Such individuals are crucial channels to the broader population. They uniquely understand employee needs and feedback at the local or business-unit level. This group can provide valuable insights and champion future initiatives and communications, so it helps if they are part of the strategy ahead of time.
  • Employee resource groups: Similar to wellbeing champions, employee resource groups can provide new perspectives on the inclusiveness of wellbeing programs and culture.

Bringing the listening strategy to action planning

The most important thing an employer can do after a survey or focus group is make sure employees feel heard. After listening, employers should respond with feedback: what was heard and what might change and when. Focus areas typically range from program enhancements, training, rewards changes, technology modernization and culture attributes.

It is important that a wellbeing listening strategy consider the overall context and measure aspects of communication, culture and environment (physical and digital). It is also valuable to include measures of the overall employee experience, to make useful connections between the employee experience and wellbeing, but also the wellbeing related micro-experiences, such as how people access, engage with, and use the various programs, tools, and resources you provide.

We consistently see a strong relationship between ease of access, connectedness, and personalization of wellbeing resources and the overall state of wellbeing regardless of what programs are available. Finding ways to bring wellbeing into people’s daily lives with little required effort goes a long way to making a real impact.

There really is no substitute for listening when it comes to wellbeing, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Given its importance in driving engagement and productivity and in employees’ assessment of the overall employee experience, you might even find employees appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback, which may further reinforce the importance you place on wellbeing.


Director, Health and Benefits
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Senior Director, Employee Experience

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