United Kingdom

Return on investment is dead. It’s about return on health.

Colin Barnes, Director of Propositions and Development

The typical cost savings model is a thing of the past; employers need to be looking at the health and wellbeing of their employees to really see big returns.


There’s a ticking time bomb in the workplace. As a professional services firm, we’ve seen for a long time that we’re all getting older, living longer but less healthy lives.

This is putting traditional benefits under strain. The outcome of companies claiming more – and without enough initial investment to replace that money – is that premiums will increase.

The issue with this situation in a typical return on investment model is that you might spend £1 and save £2 on the benefits you offer, but you might also pay a big lump sum later in that employee’s working life because they get sick. So is that really return on investment overall?


Some employers might be spending £100 paying for treatment to every £1 spent trying to prevent it.


But with figures like one in two people born after 1960 are likely to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and around one in six people report experiencing a mental health issue in any given week, is it a sustainable model?

The macro data continues to build the picture that employers need to do something about it.

Prevention over cure

The alternative is to move the money forward. Instead of paying it at the back end when people get sick and take time off, employers need to move it to the front end, for example by creating a wellbeing programme.

The Aon model for developing this is to start by looking at the data to see what employees are struggling with - be it absenteeism because of stress, cardiovascular issues or musculoskeletal issues including bad backs, for example.

Then, a strategy is developed to target this, deliver it and at the end you determine whether it has helped.

A great way of getting a comprehensive picture is using an app. Firstly, because data suggests there’s a much higher uptake because so much of people’s time is spent online.

But secondly, as an employer, you see the data results coming through. You can measure the impact your programme is having, and you can tailor it to the problems your workforce are facing.

Aon launched an app in July, which offers things like coaching and meditation for those who suffer with stress or anxiety. But also offers help with things like financial wellbeing, which is important for maintaining overall employee wellbeing.

Financial health

As an employer, you might think the financial health box is ticked because ‘I’ve got a pension in place and I send out a booklet once a year’. But actually, you might find that some of your employees are taking out a pay day loan at the end of the month to see them through; our recent Aon DC and Financial Wellbeing Member Survey showed that high earners (over £55,000) were most likely to have a pay day loan – one in ten of them admitted to having this type of debt.

Around 40% of employees worry about their finances when they’re at work; if you can impact even a small proportion, surely you can help to create a healthier, happier workforce and therefore a better business.

One example of tackling this is to use an app to aggregate all of the employee’s accounts - including credit cards and ISAs - so they can see the whole picture of their finances. They can begin monitoring what they spend and what their savings goals are; it can then tell them if they are close to their overdraft or went over budget on something this week.

If this is done consistently, hopefully it’ll then start to change behaviour, which is the big thing we’re trying to achieve.


“Cost and savings are always going to be important. But is it the best thing to put as a KPI? Employers might be better off measuring things like physical activity, happiness, engagement, attitudes and social inclusion”


The issue with the traditional attitude of ‘you look after your bit and I’ll look after mine’ is that actually, if an employer helps employees to look after themselves then it benefits everybody.

Cost and savings are always going to be important. But is it the best thing to put as a KPI? Employers might be better off measuring things like physical activity, happiness, engagement, attitudes, and social inclusion.

Ultimately health is more important than cost avoidance. It’s about the value of your employees and how you can invest in them. So redeploy the money, spend it slightly differently, and potentially reap the benefits.






For more information or to discuss any of the issues outlined in this article, please get in touch and let's talk benefits!


Aon UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 00210725. Registered Office: The Aon Centre, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London EC3V 4AN.