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How to Create Effective Incentive Programs for Employees

January 28, 2020 / Employee Engagement

Written By: Brendan Lau

Having trouble getting your employees to engage with your wellbeing program? Or maybe you’ve created an incentive program for your employees, but your employee engagement ideas just aren’t as sticky in action as they were on the whiteboard.

In our annual wellbeing industry survey, we found that only 18% of employers see daily engagement in their wellbeing program and the majority (60%) state that employees’ competing priorities are the biggest barrier to increased participation.

So, what’s the secret to engaging your workforce with your wellbeing program?

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, creating incentive programs for employees that fit the needs of your budget, wellbeing program and employee population will enable you to make your wellbeing program something that complements, rather than competes against, your employees’ priorities.

Here are 3 simple, yet effective, tips to help you create better employee incentive programs.

Your Incentive Game Plan: Turning Extrinsic Rewards Into Intrinsic Rewards

Extrinsic vs intrinsic — how do these different types of rewards differ? An intrinsic reward is the reward (or joy!) that comes from simply performing the activity itself. This could be, for example, baking cookies because, well, you like baking cookies.

Extrinsic rewards on the other hand are external motivators such as money, competition, recognition, you name it. For example, you can offer extrinsic rewards such as cash, discounts, gift cards, a point or leaderboard system, and so on. These rewards are a great catalyst to get your employees eating better, completing annual health risk assessments, increasing levels of physical activity or even utilizing partnered resources, to name a few.

Once they feel the positive effects of the activity itself, whatever it may be, participation in that activity then becomes the intrinsic reward that creates daily habits and drives behavior change.

Access  BJ Fogg’s Video Guide on How Behavior Works

Best Practices for Employee Incentive Programs

It may sound intuitive, but to create incentive programs that work and make your wellbeing program sticky, you have to offer rewards that work for your people. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Prioritize small and frequent rewards

Rather than higher milestones with a larger lump reward, incorporating a multi-level gamification structure will incentivize your employees to go above and beyond and interact with your program more frequently.

Reward healthy behavior with healthy rewards

Promote the correlation between health and happiness! This can include free workout gear, gift cards towards health-forward restaurants, fitness trackers, discounted fitness classes or gym memberships.

Implement a point system or weekly challenges

Publicly recognize your champions through email, announcement, or newsletter! Who doesn’t appreciate being recognized for putting in high effort and achieving quality outcomes?

This is also a great way to build up that organizational culture of health and wellbeing without having to dig deep into your pockets.

Get 6 tips on how you can write a better employee benefit newsletter

Get Feedback on Your Employee Incentive Program

Whether its weekly step challenges, premium discounts, or gift cards: you might think you know your workforce best. But obtaining your employees’ feedback allows you to build even better rewards that feel personal and keep your employees increasingly motivated. Since you’re creating an incentive program for your employees, they should be an integral part of your process.

In our annual survey, 42% of employers stated they ask employees for feedback on their employee wellbeing program just once a year, while only 35% of employers distributed employee wellbeing communications every month.

At the end of the day, creating incentive programs for employees should be a continuous learning process. Do what works for your employees and align it with the vision and goals of your organizational culture, and you’ll be sure to see success.

Access our annual survey report to learn what the top 5 barriers to increased participation in wellbeing programs are and how to design employee incentive programs that have a lasting positive impact.

About The Author

Brendan Lau is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Virgin Pulse.

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