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Data and wellbeing: Using the LEAD approach to measure employee satisfaction

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Data is crucial for assessing business success, and according to the co-founder of The Wellbeing Lab, Dr Michelle McQuaid, it is essential for measuring employee wellbeing, too.

“There are a couple of things that aren’t always immediately obvious to us … We need the data, and we need to know what to do off the back of that data,” said Dr McQuaid.

“What weve found really important in the research and practice weve done with organisations in Australia and around the world is that there are actually four factors that are really important around how we gather data on wellbeing and what we do about it in our workplaces.”


Dr McQuaid explained her organisation’s approach to measuring wellbeing, which is the ‘LEAD’ approach. She outlined it as follows:

  • L is for language. If were going to measure something, we need to know what were measuring. And wellbeing is one of those words that can mean so many different things to different people and can be a bit abstract. So, are we measuring mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, social wellbeing? Its a bit different in every organisation based on whats important to your company and what your people need. But getting that clear language is really important.
  • E is the evaluation, be it finding a reliable evidence-based measure that you can use.
  • A is for activation. We want actionable insights out of those measures so that we can use it to inform conversation and change behaviour.
  • D is for determination because caring for our wellbeing is never one ‘woohoo and done’ as we like to say at The Wellbeing Lab. We've got to keep doing it day after day.

Using LEAD to assess employee satisfaction can help create a foundation for continued wellbeing management. This approach can also assist in identifying issues that may arise so they can be dealt with.

Dr McQuaid said: “The goal of your workplace wellbeing strategy is, how do you help people become more intelligent and active participants in caring for their wellbeing? Were big fans of not using the word ‘improve’ wellbeing, because it puts a lot of pressure on us. It brings us back to that expectation that if its not always going up, theres either something wrong with us or theres something wrong with the things that were being encouraged to do. And its actually rare that either of those things are true. Its more common that just, its hard to stick with and our context keeps changing. And so, what worked well today may not work well tomorrow.”

Being able to adapt to changes in the workplace can help an organisation to better manage employee wellbeing. There are many factors that can influence an employee’s satisfaction and a more personalised approach may be needed.

“We can be making all the right choices for ourselves, but we might be in a team or a workplace that is just draining wellbeing from us every day. And so, then the choice about whats right for us might be to not stay in that system if we have any choice of stepping out of it,” explained Dr McQuaid.

“That social support makes such a big difference. Not just for helping us stick with the behaviour, but to learn from each other … That worked for you, I could try that, or I could tweak that in a different way … It normalises, what I found really hard, other people are finding it really hard as well.”

She concluded: “We need to keep adjusting, as the world around us changes as well.”

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation recorded on 11 November 2022 with Dr Michelle McQuaid is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.


Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.