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The Business of Healthy Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health – Part 4: Motivation and Incentives

July 1, 2013 / Corporate Wellness

award winnerWe just wrapped up the 5th annual National Employee Wellness Month (NEWM), an annual initiative that helps business leaders learn how companies are successfully engaging employees in healthy lifestyles.

To mark the occasion and help shine a spotlight on the importance of a healthy workforce, Virgin HealthMiles released findings from a survey (free download available here) of nearly 10,000 employees across 1,300 businesses, providing insight into workplace health priorities.

In this post we look at the role incentives and other motivation tactics can impact workplace health program adoption.

While many wellness programs are successful because of their ability to inspire intrinsic motivation among participants, , incentive programs also are an important motivator for employees. That’s not to say that employers should count on health alone as a motivator, as incentives are clearly valued by employees.

Six out of 10 employees participate specifically for the incentives offered. Sixty-four percent of employers offer some kind of incentive, with combined incentives for participation and outcome leading incentives for participation or outcomes alone.

Of the incentives being offered,  the resounding majority are “carrot”-type incentives, rewards for doing well and achieving something. Carrot-type incentives provide positive motivation, and these continue to be a more popular offering (67.7 percent) than stick-type incentives (3.5 percent) which are down 1 percent from 2012. The number of organizations offering both carrot and stick-type incentives has remained consistent (28.8 percent), suggesting that a balanced approach has proven to have value.

“Research shows that sometimes the carrot works, and sometimes the stick gets better results,” said Virgin HealthMiles’ Chris Boyce. “You’ll have to determine what will work best for your population and your culture before you decide how to position your incentive dollars.”

Offering incentives is a good practice, with 61.4 percent of employees participating specifically to earn an incentive. This can lead to a direct increase in participation, which would translate again to the improvement of overall company health. “Incentives (especially monetary) seem to really motivate people,” said one employee. “Also friendly competition is very motivating.”

Incentives that encourage participation and produce beneficialoutcomes are also potentially the most beneficial for the organization, as positive improvements in health will directly impact productivity, presenteeism and engagement by employees.

Does your company currently implement a wellness program? If so, we would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on how it has helped you achieve your wellness goals. Please leave a comment in the section below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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