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Paul Litchfield

BT Group

Chief Medical Officer

Read more about Paul Litchfield

The first HCM reporting benchmark: BITC’s Workwell model


Today’s launch of Business in the Community’s Workwell FTSE 100 benchmark is the culmination of more than five years of research into the issue of human capital management reporting. 

The benchmark was created by the charity in partnership with key employers such as BT Group in order to demonstrate the benefits of taking a strategic, proactive approach to staff wellness and engagement.
It takes an evidence-based approach to human capital management and looks at employees in a holistic sense within the broader context of the company’s performance. The idea is that employees and their employers are interdependent and need to work together for their ownmutual benefit.
There are five considerations that are thought crucial for generating employee wellness and engagement:
  1. Demonstrate a robust employee wellness and engagement strategy linked to business objectives
  2. Take a strategic approach to skills and talent that meets current and future business needs
  3. Ensure that employee communication activities help to boost engagement
  4. Proactively help to build up staff members’ physical and psychological resilience to ensure that their performance is sustainable
  5. Provide workers with a safe and pleasant environment that supports both wellness and productivity.
These principles form the basis of the Workwell model which, in turn, provides four pillars to help create a positive working environment in FTSE 100 companies:
  1. Better work – encourage a happy and engaging work environment
  2. Better relationships – promote employee communication and social connections
  3. Better specialist support – provide suitable interventions to manage staff health and wellbeing
  4. Better physical and psychological health – create an environment that promotes healthy behaviour.
BITC Workwell Model
Click on the image to view it at full size.
The model recognises that the well-being of employees is critical for business sustainability. Indeed, one of the drivers for developing the reporting guidelines was to respond to an investor community keen to see organisations reporting human capital management issues in a rigorous and transparent manner.
Despite the obvious link between employee and business performance, they had no consistent benchmark against which to measure the way in which employers were managing their most valuable asset.  
Therefore, the Workwell reporting guidelines were created in a bid to provide such consistency. In each of the four domains covered by the model, there is a matrix of input and output characteristics, each of which have their own supporting metrics. 
These metrics correspond with three levels of possible interventions, which are graded into entry, intermediate and mature. Although the guidelines will inevitably evolve over time, the aim is for them to provide a set of parameters against which human capital management matters can be judged.
A further goal is to elevate employee wellbeing from a health and safety compliance or “nice to do” activity to a business performance item on the boardroom agenda.
Example of the matrix to support Workwell’s Better Work domain
Some of the companies represented in our steering group have already demonstrated the potential benefits, which include improved employee attendance, better recruitment and retention as well as higher productivity levels plus an enhanced corporate reputation.
From the launch of the benchmark today until 25 November, FTSE 100 companies will be able to complete an online questionnaire covering areas ranging from leadership and management development to occupational health and business performance.
The results – which will include all FTSE 100 firms whether they choose to complete the questionnaire or not – will be published in April 2013 as part of BITC’s Responsible Business Week. While the achievements of exemplary companies will be highlighted, all other results will remain anonymous.
But the publication of the results will mark the first time that FTSE 100 companies have been able to compare their own performance in human capital management terms with that of their peers. 
The ultimate goal is that the benchmark data gathered will start to provide firms with an objective measure of what constitutes best practice and show them where they may be lagging behind. Over time, it will also create an important catalogue of trends and we expect its remit to grow to include organisations of all shapes and sizes.
Although we appreciate that completing the questionnaire may not be easy for some companies and that others may not yet have all the required data available, we believe that the gaps themselves will be telling. 
For example, we know that the role of line managers is critical in terms of individual employee performance, but which companies train their line managers in how to actively enhancetheir wellbeing and engagement? 
We also know that firms often offer volunteering opportunities to staff members, but how many link such opportunities in with their personal development goals? 
At a time when the average employee takes 6.5 days off work per year through illness and staff absence costs the UK economy more than £17 billion a year, the ability to answer and address such questions is only likely to have apositive impact on the bottom line.
BT’s health and well-being experiences
BT employs some 89,000 people and provides customers with communications products and services in more than 170 countries. But the pace of technological and business change in the sector is phenomenal, which can place our workforce under significant pressure. 
As a result, we have developed an integrated approach to well-being that links the health and safety of our staff with protecting their mental health.
A key element of this approach was the creation of a mental health toolkit, which provides managers with practical support in helping to prevent problems in the first place, intervene at an early stage if there are any and subsequently rehabilitate employees if none of the above proved sufficient. 
We have also developed a mental health dashboard to enable senior managers to view the data collected from our sickness absence management system, occupational health service, employee assistance programme and bespoke stress management system all in one place. 
Information is broken down by division and managers can monitor and explore trends to help them identify pressure points within the business in order to tackle them. 
The dashboard, which is updated on a monthly basis, is supplemented by data and verbatim comments from our quarterly engagement survey, but also includes figures relating to grievances and bullying and harassment complaints in order to provide a comprehensive picture of employee wellbeing across the organisation.
While there is good evidence to suggest that it is possible to improve employee engagement and performance in the short-term, such change can only really be sustained if consistent attention is paid to health and well-being issues. Failure to do so tends to result in burn-out. 
BT has been working on its health and well-being initiatives for over 10 years now, however, and, even though the company has been through some tough times, consistent attention to these issues has resulted in sustained improvement across a range of health and business indicators.    
And our lessons and those learned by other companies that sit on BITC’s leadership and steering groups have helped to create the Workwell movement. We believe that it is a powerful approach that will encourage change in how human capital is managed and act as a force for good in both economic and people terms.
Paul Litchfield, chief medical officer for BT Group and chair of the Workwell steering group.
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Paul Litchfield

Chief Medical Officer

Read more from Paul Litchfield

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