Training Industry

Workforce Development

  • Thriving Learners: Employee Well-Being and the Third Metric

According to the American Institute of Stress, almost 50 percent of workers say they need help learning how to manage their stress. In her 2014 book “Thrive,” Arianna Huffington cites research indicating that 96 percent of leaders feel burned out; that women who feel just “a little too” much pressure at work are at greater risk of heart disease; and that Germany lost 59 million workdays to psychological illness in 2011 – up over 80 percent in 15 years.

Huffington wrote this book as a reaction to this reality, and last November, she took it a step further by launching Thrive Global, a company providing solutions to enhance well-being and productivity. The company announced its Series A funding round in August. In addition to its media and commerce platforms, Thrive Global offers workshops, coaching and technologies to help companies develop “thriving” cultures.

A 2016 report found that employees who believe that they have higher well-being (defined as “a state of optimal health, happiness, and purpose”) feel more engaged at work, are loyal to their teams, recommend their company as a great place to work and plan on staying at their company. With benefits like these, it’s clear that there’s a place for wellness programs at work.

There are a lot of options, too. Fitbit, the popular consumer fitness app, even offers some corporate wellness programs. In fact, at the end of 2016, the company announced new customers including New York Life, Pitney Bowes, SAP and Sharp Healthcare. The goal of incorporating wearables in corporate wellness is to improve engagement, and in fact Fitbit cites research suggesting that wearables can increase participation by 40 percent. Employees are encouraged to participate with wellness challenges and dashboards that track their progress.

Jiff (not the peanut butter!), a well-being platform for self-insured companies, was acquired Wednesday by Castlight Health. Derek Newell, CEO of Jiff, who will be president of the combined company, says that Jiff’s founders noticed that direct-to-consumer products like Fitbit were much more successful than the wellness companies that were aimed at businesses. They created Jiff as a platform to “redesign” the corporate wellness program by connecting it with engaging consumer products, using machine learning to identify the best solutions for individual employees. The combined company will add Castlight’s clinical data and navigation tool to the Jiff platform to help employees find clinical services.

According to Kathryn Friedrich, Thrive’s chief marketing officer, it’s important to include training professionals in wellness programs because they know how to encourage engagement. She says that this responsibility extends to post-training reinforcement and continuing engagement as well. Of course, the training organization should also be involved in creating programs such as mindfulness training programs and in measuring their results.

The Third Metric

More and more, training organizations are realizing that, just as marketers must really understand their audience for campaign success, the training function must really understand learners for programs to be effective. Friedrich cites this trend as a driving force behind Thrive; “people are people,” she says, whether they’re at work or at home, and organizations must develop a holistic understanding of their needs in order to support their performance.

Huffington calls it the “third metric” to defining success: In addition to money and power (the traditional way we’ve measured success), she writes in “Thrive” that “we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that…consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.” Since employer success is directly tied to employee success, it stands to reason that this third metric is one that companies should measure as well. When individuals and organizations focus more on this metric, she says, “there will no longer be any split between being successful at work and thriving in life.”

Unfortunately, only around 25 percent of companies attempt to measure the success of their employee wellness programs – meaning that not only are most training organizations unable to demonstrate ROI, but they may even be spending money on programs that are ineffective.

Of course, organizations should include Level 1 measurements such as employee feedback. As with any training program, however, it’s important to identify specific behavior changes and business results that are impacted by the wellness training. In the vocabulary of Huffington’s third metric, has employee – and organization – well-being increased as a result of the program? Have sick days decreased? Are employees more productive – without working longer hours? Have the company’s health care costs decreased?

At Jiff, Newell says, rather than measuring success solely with ROI, they focus on a newer metric called VOI – value on investment. Companies value their employees’ happiness and satisfaction but can’t always immediately translate those values into dollar figures. The new goal, Newell says, echoing Huffington’s book, is “well-being,” not “wellness.” Financial, mental, physical and emotional well-being are now considered the “foundation of happy, healthy, productive employees.”

“The companies that succeed,” says Friedrich, “will be the ones that start to take action today.” The first step is understanding your employees and their needs. Training organizations don’t need to implement large-scale programs right off the bat; they can start small, and Friedrich says that Thrive’s success so far is because they take “micro-steps for macro-change.” Start by acknowledging that your employees are people with holistic needs, and implement that third metric into your organization’s definition of success. The payoff could be big.

Taryn Oesch, CPTM, is an editor at Training Industry.

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