For the most part, companies understand the value of incorporating worksite wellness programs as employee health declines and health care costs continue to skyrocket. However, high participation rates take time, and many businesses are left wondering how to get more employees involved and interested. While incentives (prizes, gifts, etc.) might seem like an easy fix, first delivering programming targeted to employees' needs and interests will have a greater long-term impact.
The use of incentives or extrinsic rewards (things that motivate from the outside) is controversial because lasting, long-term change is more positively tied to intrinsic rewards (motivation that comes from within the individual). We do know that incentives increase participation in wellness programming and reinforce short-term behavior change. The hope is that these short-term, externally motivated changes morph into long-term, internal, self-motivation. The following provides rationale behind why and how incentives are a successful investment for the workplace:
? Using incentives in a positive work culture. Positive work cultures generally produce happier employees, increased productivity and improved overall employee morale. Integrating incentives at a company with a positive work culture increases the likelihood of a positive return. Using incentives without this positive culture might increase participation rates, but employee satisfaction might not be met. Even if employees are receiving rewards for being involved in wellness programming, the "Negative Nancy" of the group may ruin the fun. So for incentives to be most effective, employers must also give attention to the workplace culture. Do your employees feel optimistic? Do they feel valued? How do you know? Bosses who let workers know their contributions are appreciated tend to have employees who feel positively recognized and who are more likely to participate in worksite wellness programming.
? A wellness program is no program at all without participants. Your company may have recently initiated a worksite wellness program to decrease employee health risks and healthcare costs, but no one is participating. You have heard of other businesses using incentives, but are afraid it will be a poor investment. Here's the deal: Incentives are a great investment that will not only increase participation rates, but also will increase your return on investment (ROI). Nearly 50 percent of companies with wellness programs currently use incentives and it is because they produce results. The more employees that participate in programs, the greater amount of your employee population you will reach.
? The difference between lottery incentives and fixed payment incentives. For companies that are worried about investing large amounts of money in incentives, fear no more. While fixed payment incentives (receiving $100 to complete a Health Risk Assessment, for instance) provide encouraging results, incorporating lottery incentives can yield equal if not higher participation rates. Lottery incentives can be more cost effective because participants do not receive a reward for each program and individuals tend to overweigh the probability that they will win the larger prize. If you are unsure whether to choose lotteries or fixed payments, think about trying a combination of both and measuring the results.
Kelli Oligney is a student of the bachelor's degree program in Health Promotion and Wellness with minors in Strength and Conditioning and Nutrition at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She currently puts her wellness knowledge to work as an intern at the National Wellness Institute. For more wellness information, see PortageCountyCAN.org and NationalWellness.org.