Incorporate wellbeing into external reporting

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Rolls-Royce's David Roomes advised on making the business case for H&W

Incorporating wellbeing into external reporting is a powerful way of embedding the health and wellbeing agenda, according to David Roomes, group director of health, safety and environment and chief medical officer at Rolls-Royce.

Speaking at the Good Day at Work Conversation 2017, Roomes shared his experiences of “making the case for wellbeing in a company of engineers”, 87% of whom are male. He spoke on the importance of being as evidence-based as possible to ensure senior buy-in, and the buy-in of highly technical data-orientated professionals.

“There’s a lot of anecdote around mental health and resilience for example,” he said. “You go into any organisation and they say: ‘the stress, the transformation…’ but it’s all anecdotal and when you try to to get the numbers and evidence base it does become very difficult… [At Rolls-Royce] it wasn’t that there wasn’t the appetite. So you’re pushing against an open door – apart from when it comes to budget. So it’s making your case in a coherent way.

“My first job is to be credible,” he added. “You can bring mindfulness in through the back door as something else, but you have to be able to get people’s attention in a coherent way first.”

Roomes explained that his approach at Rolls-Royce has been to roll out an internal accreditation system, applied to all 75 sites across the globe. “There are 12 criteria that have to be met,” he explained. “The real trick is I have got it into the annual report so it’s an externally-reported KPI.”

He added: “If it’s going to last you have to get a measure against it and have it reported externally so people can’t back away from it.”

Regarding the difficulty of quantifying the impact of health and wellbeing initiatives, Roomes suggested measuring in terms of value of investment (VOI) rather than ROI (return on investment). “Because this stuff is incredibly hard to quantify… looking at days off sick with stress is a crude measure because the sick notes don’t tell you much,” he said, adding that engagement surveys and pulse surveys were a better starting point.

Roomes also spoke on the importance of global companies tailoring health and wellbeing initiatives locally. “Try not to hold onto large sums of money centrally otherwise it will be taken off you,” he advised, explaining that local businesses will be better placed to decide their specific priorities anyway.

Global wellbeing programme lead at BP Castrol Lizz Lloyd agreed this was also important at her company. “We want a global strategy that pulls it all together, but we also know we operate very differently in different countries,” she said. “What we don’t want to do is be very blanket corporate.”

Lloyd added the advice of being patient when launching a new H&W strategy. “The lesson learnt has been: sit on your hands a bit longer and take it in rather than rush to action,” she said, explaining this can be hard to explain to leadership teams wanting immediate gains.

Health and wellbeing manager at Nestlé June Clark agreed on the importance of patience. “We halted very quickly [after we started],” she said. “That caused a lot of pain at the time but looking back it was the best thing… because people kept asking for it and so when we did go for it we had a lot more backing.”

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