Making the most of your metrics

Graph sheets

22 / 4 / 2016 Midnight

What are metrics?

Metrics are all about making raw and basic data easy to interpret and understand. They help you recognise good practise and spot areas that you need to improve on. Metrics can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to a really complex set of data and formulae. Metrics allow you to prove the case for health and wellbeing initiatives to the board, target key areas for improvement and highlight hot spots for further support. They enable you to understand the current position of your organisation, but only become useful when you do something with the data you have gathered, such as:

  • informing, planning, and evaluating your health and wellbeing programmes and initiatives
  • informing your health and wellbeing strategy
  • challenge and informing your board
  • helping you to map engagement for key stakeholders. 

Metrics are readily available and are used regularly by analysts, as well as all sorts of managers within the NHS who find them invaluable. Using metrics lets you create simple visual summaries of important information, allowing you to present them clearly and flexibly to people who really need to see it, such as your board.

How health and wellbeing can be measured

Health and wellbeing can be measured using a number of metrics such as:

  • staff sickness absence
  • top five reasons for absence
  • return to work meeting numbers
  • vacancy establishment
  • HR / OH interventions and referrals
  • agency and bank staff usage
  • staff survey response rates
  • appraisal rates
  • mandatory training rates
  • induction rates.

All the above is really useful data, allowing you to target important areas and hot spots for interventions and developments. Key questions to ask are what impact is this metric having on my staff, or patient care and do I need to talk to my staff about this metric so I can understand the context of this and the impact this is having? 

You can use metrics to assess and find out the impact of workplace interventions, training and workshops in your wellbeing programme, such as:

  • what your employees are engaged in
  • what works for your organisation
  • what they thought of an event
  • what they would like to see in the future. 

Key questions to ask before you start putting metrics together

  • What is it you are trying to achieve? what information do you need and why?
  • Where are you going to find this data? The ESR database? surveys? websites?
  • How are you going to use it? setup/review an intervention? showcase success? 
  • Who is this information for – staff? managers? the board? patients? public?
  • What should it look like – statistics? graphs? key points? hard-hitting facts?
  • What do I need to do it – information? contacts? engagement? expert advice?
  • What can you do, and what do you need help with? know your limits, ask for help
  • How are you going to share this information? social and digital media? contacts? 
  • How are you going to evaluate this metric and put it to good use?

The Electronic Staff Record (ESR)

The Electronic Staff Record (ESR) comes with a web-based reporting tool called ESR Business Intelligence (ESR BI). In your organisation there will be experts who use this system daily. Make links with them to understand the metrics available, and what you can do with them.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre: sickness absence rates

A good example of metrics in use are the national sickness absence rates that the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) create every quarter. These spreadsheets are full of data but are still easy to read and categorised into organisation, organisation type, and area.

They show clearly which organisations have low sickness absence and which ones are not doing so well. These are publicly available and free to download from their website and are very useful to compare your own organisation with others in terms of absence rates. This data shows which organisations are doing well, so you can make contact with them and improve your own policies and wellbeing programmes and reduce absence rates.

The Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor Calculator is another simple and useful metrics tool. It is a straightforward formula that calculates a specific weighting (the overall impact that absences will have on an organisation) for employee unplanned absences. The higher the number, the greater impact it will be having on an organisation. It allows managers to monitor short-term sickness (i.e. minor non-recurring absences such as a headache or an upset stomach) over a year to determine whether it is excessive. It assumes that more frequent one-day absences are more disruptive than fewer longer periods of sickness.

The Bradford Calculator gives a specific number for an individual employee that can then be compared to that of others and categorised within certain thresholds in order to establish whether the employee’s short-term sickness is too high. It is only a guide but can be used as a pointer to further, more comprehensive investigation.

Using the calculator helps to discourage excessive absenteeism and allows managers to compare short-term sickness across the department and organisations as a whole. To use the calculator and for more information please see the Bradford Factor Calculator website.

NHS examples

Our four feature trusts have effectively used metrics to evaluate their health and wellbeing programmes and to target their initiatives. Find out how by visiting our Leading the Way section.

If you would like to share how your trust uses metrics please contact

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