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RO-Why? VO-Why? Communicating Program Value Based on Your Leader’s “Why”

By Terri Corsi | April 9, 2019 | Healthy Lifestyle

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Chances are if you have spent any time in the employee wellness realm then you are familiar with the term Value of Investment (VOI). There is much discussion in the field on the benefits of moving away from a strictly Return on Investment (ROI) evaluation when measuring whether your wellness program is successful or not. Why? More organizations are realizing that looking only at ROI fails to include some of the very real and tangible benefits to employee wellness. But, does your C-suite know this and do they care?

Firstly, what is the difference?

ROI is simple—it’s the money saved on healthcare costs for every dollar spent on the program. ROI is a popular business term used to describe the financial return received on any given financial investment.[i] Here, you are using medical expense data to determine success. Whereas, VOI encompasses more than ROI in that it measures not just cost savings, but other factors that contribute to business performance such as improved productivity and high employee retention.[ii] VOI is not a very easy term to understand because it’s not very descriptive. Typically outcome measures that are part of VOI are self-reported, require additional data collection and expense, and are generally considered “softer” measures.[iii] Regardless of what measurements you are currently using to evaluate the success of your program, we can probably agree that reporting the results of your program are essential to gaining leadership support.[iv] And let’s face it, whether you measure programs by ROI or VOI, or both, reporting those results to the c-suite isn’t as easy as it seems.[v] Are you communicating your results in a meaningful way that is important to your leadership?

What can help?

Simply ask them! Do you know your leader’s ‘why’ for wellness? Jessica Grossmeier, in an interview with WELCOA, says, “The best place to start is by asking your business leaders about the outcomes that matter most to them. Even if we think we know what our leaders value, it is important to ask not just one set of business leaders but a variety of them. When we do not fully understand the spectrum of attitudes that exist within an organization, we miss out on the opportunity to message about the value of our efforts in a more targeted way.” [vi] Before you panic about determining what metrics you should be reporting to the c-suite, simply ask them what they would like to see first and why those values are important. Once you know the why, you can determine what to measure – whether it’s ROI, VOI, or both, and what will help tell that story the best.

Telling the story

Even more important than determining the appropriate metrics, is the need to translate the business case into terms that are meaningful to your c-suite. Wellness program results should be translated into terms that leaders can relate to. For example, Jessica Grossmeier goes on to say, “we have to take a step back, get rid of the jargon and think about how to translate our findings to what our stakeholders think about every day. We have to figure out how to translate our metrics into terms that might be more readily meaningful to them such as the number of FTE hours or dollars that can be translated into a bottom line number. I remember back in the day Chrysler converting the wellness opportunity into how much less they would have to charge for a specific model of truck if they were able to improve the health of their employee population to a certain degree. That really gave them something tangible to respond to.”[vii]

Some helpful metrics to get you started

Whether ROI or VOI is on your evaluation list, a guidebook, Program Measurement and Evaluation Guide: Core Metrics for Employee Health Management, provides some insights on helpful program measurement and evaluation[viii]. The guide recommends using seven metrics to evaluate wellness program success[ix].

Consider presenting some of these measurements to your leadership to see if it garners some interest and helps you determine their “why.”

  • Financial outcomes,including the direct financial claims savings and the financial impact of wellness on hospital claims and health outcomes.
  • Health impact, including the effect of wellness programs on the physical health, mental/emotional health, health behaviors, health status and overall risk status of a workforce.
  • Participation,from overall program participation down to more finite measures, such as percentage of people who are eligible for a specific program (based on health status) and how many enroll, and the degree to which they participate.
  • Satisfaction, including both employer and employee/participant satisfaction with the wellness program and a recommendation for specific ways to capture this measurement.
  • Organizational support, which encompasses the degree to which an organization commits to employee health, including the deliberate steps it takes to support health (i.e., programs, policies and procedures), cultural support for employee participation in health improvement, and management participation and support.
  • Productivity and performance, including how to measure the impact of health on factors like time away from work and employee performance.
  • VOI, which is a financial analysis that better reflects the broader savings potential of wellness programs.[x]

Once you know your leader’s “why” you can align it with what you evaluate and communicate to your leadership moving forward. CoreHealth Technologies suggest the following metrics to use based on your leadership’s “why”:[xi]

Possible Why? Example Metric
Decrease healthcare costs Trend in claims experience (e.g. via your health provider)
Increase overall employee health Trend workforce biometrics (e.g. via your wellness technology)
Increase employee engagement or satisfaction Trend in engagement (e.g. via employee survey)
Decrease absenteeism Trend in sick days (e.g. via your payroll or HRIS)
Decrease disability costs Trend in disability (e.g. via your insurance provider)
Increase activity levels Trend in steps/activity levels (e.g. via your corporate wellness technology)
It’s the right thing to do Trend participation levels in wellness programs compared to eligible participants (e.g. if only 10% of employees of your workforce participate in wellness programs, this could be indicative of poor employee engagement levels or low management support or more).
Decrease employees smoking Trend number of employees smoking (e.g. via health risk assessments or biometric screenings)
Reduce workplace accidents Trend sleep patterns from your staff (e.g. ask employees to assess the amount of sleep they are getting via polls and survey feature from your wellness technology).


Need more help? WELCOA offers a planning worksheet that helps you write out what is important to your leadership, think through a possible value story message, determine what goals they want to work on, and then helps you craft a plan to achieve it.  [xii]