John Mayor: How data can create a health and wellbeing strategy

As part of our push to be an employer of choice, 2013 became a year of change that saw us undertake a full benefits review after the amalgamation of a number of providers across some of our sites.

Key points

  • Data mining can help shape employers’ health and wellbeing strategies. 
  • All data-mining exercises require a clear objective to help provide meaningful results. 
  • Objectives will differ according to each stakeholder. 
John Mayor

Because our whole business is about health, we really wanted to translate our external ‘Health through food’ mission to our employees. This resulted in us partnering Bluecrest Wellness to launch an employer-paid bespoke screening service for all staff. This would replace the health checks we offered to about 10% of our workforce. 

Our aim was to introduce a consistent offering for all employees, regardless of their location and grade, which emphasises the willingness of our business division, Danone Nutricia, to enhance employees’ workplace experience using a preventative approach to care.

Data mining

We screened 476 employees in the first six months, which gave Bluecrest enough data to mine effectively and anonymously, with a view to enabling us to use the results to help inform our health strategy.

The provider was able to analyse trends that ran across our different business units and sites by slicing and dicing our cloud-based database captured by Bluecrest Health Screening. This manipulation of data even allowed the drill to go as far as departmental trends.

We gave Bluecrest Wellness guidance on how the data should be structured to give us the most strategic meaning for our business. Each business unit has its own HR and the occupational health (OH) function, so there was a collaborative approach to identifying specific trends.

Specific areas had been identified as of interest and of strategic value. For example, one particular business had experienced a decrease in employee engagement and was interested in the data related to stress, to see if this had increased and to then identify any correlation with employee engagement.

Regular meetings were held to explore the strategic opportunities presented by the data, to enable us to generate a return on investment (ROI), boost employee health, increase employee engagement and productivity, and reduce sickness absence.  

Key stakeholders

Our key stakeholders were our employees, who needed to see the value of the health screenings from the outset. This called for targeted communications that gave staff the information they need to take control of their health with support from a caring employer, rather than a putative management strategy to force a health agenda on them.

However, communications for HR and OH needed to focus on how management information (MI) could be used to elevate health screening from a transactional employee benefit to a transformative data-driven strategic driver for positive change.

Within Danone Nutricia, we empowered Beth Jansing, our UK reward manager, to facilitate the changes that could make a difference at each site by linking the findings and trends with the localised occupational health budget owners.

Jansing used the MI reports provided by Bluecrest Wellness to set up meetings with the various OH and HR functions by site. By demonstrating that there were areas where real ROI could be achieved, meaningful discussions could be had that engaged these key stakeholders and relevant HR and OH interventions could be developed. 

Required changes and interventions were prioritised in terms of their ROI potential. For example, we focused cessation interventions at one business, which had a higher-than-average proportion of smokers in a particular department, which we hope will produce better results than if we had rolled out a generic smoking-cessation programme across the entire site.

Key challenge

The key challenge we faced was in engaging our employees with the process of health screening, which we overcame by introducing tailored communications. For example, our field staff did not know they could attend Bluecrest Health Screening clinics across the UK; they assumed they could only attend office-based screenings. 

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About 200 field staff underwent the screening process once we had communicated their screening access rights. This boosted our screening data volumes and, therefore, our visibility of the overall staff health landscape.

John Mayor is head of UK rewards and HR project management at Danone