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Best Practices: Designing Effective Integrated Incentives Programs for Employee Health and Wellness [PART 1]

May 4, 2011 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

Part 1: Key Factors to Consider

There’s no shortage of programs and tools to help improve employee health.  Prevention-focused programs, intervention programs, assessments and diagnostics… you want to offer a variety of them, but you’re a little overwhelmed – and rightfully so – at the thought of managing all the programs, the vendors, the incentives. And you don’t want your employees to have a disjointed, confusing experience, preventing them from participating.  You’ve heard from us, and perhaps you’ve read here on the blog, that an integrated approach is the way to go. One that brings everything together under one umbrella. You like what you hear… but what’s the next step? I’ve worked with numerous companies across the country as they’ve designed their programs and have seen that those who carefully consider these 3 key areas have the most success in designing effective integrated programs:

1.       What you want to achieve.  

  • What programs and activities do you want your employees to engage in? How often, and what results are you looking for? Will these programs drive the behaviors you want to change?
  • How would you rank the priority and importance of the programs you want to offer?  I find that the companies who are clear about what will drive the greatest value for both employees and the company are the most successful. They then go on to tailor their incentives and communications accordingly.
  • Finally, are you offering health and wellness programs now? Are they working? What would you like to do differently?

2.       Your incentives budget.    

  • What is your budget for incentives? How are you currently using it?
  • Are employees responding to the incentives you currently offer?
  • Are your incentives effective at driving participation in your programs? To be effective, you don’t necessarily need more budget. You may need to just design your program differently. For example, you can use a points system to stretch your incentives dollar across your whole health and wellness portfolio.

3.       How you want to use incentives.  

  • Do you want to reward, penalize, or both? Sometimes this just depends on your point of view. If employees earn the incentive, it’s a reward.  If they fail to earn the incentive, it’s a penalty.  In any case, be thoughtful about incentive positioning so that you are communicating the right message for your employees.
  • Do the incentives apply to your entire employee population? Are there special segments that require different considerations, such as those eligible for disease or condition management programs? If so, make sure that you’ll have mechanisms in place to deliver the right communications and incentives to the right employees at the right time. 

Once you’ve considered these important factors and have sufficiently answered those questions, you’re ready to design your program.  Next week, I’ll share some best practices for robust and effective integrated incentives program design, based on my experience with several large U.S. organizations.

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