Do Incentives Help Maximise Your Staff Participation In Corporate Health Program? June 16th, 2011, by Ken Buckley

There are many strategies that have been proven to increase employee participation in workplace wellness programs. However, the use of incentives has gained significant traction in recent years because it has demonstrated the potential to be more effective than other methods.

Current studies indicate that 17% of American companies with 500 or more employees offer incentives to encourage participation in their corporate health programs, and 23% of American companies with 20,000 or more employees use incentives.

Employee wellness programs in general have been found to generate a return on investment of $4 in health care costs and $5 in reduced absenteeism for every dollar invested within three to five years of the program launch. This alone is impressive. However, by incorporating the use of incentives into a workplace health program as a way to drive participation – particularly for program elements like HRAs – employers can see dramatic increases in their program ROI

Another study conducted in 2009 found that companies spent on average $163 per employee per year on wellness incentive rewards, up from $145 the previous year.

Incentives improve participation, but dollars alone don’t deliver sustained program engagement. The US Centre for Health Research has studied program incentives evidence and best practices, and found that incentives can be put into two categories, tangible and intangible, and both categories should be included in a well designed health program.

Tangible incentives include:
• Material merchandise goods, such as T-shirts, bags, drink bottles, health books, vouchers, etc.
• Time off such as a Well Day.
• Special privilege like a parking spot, or access to a company sponsored restaurant, or an extended lunch-hour.
• Travel opportunity such as free airline tickets or free weekend away.

Intangible incentives are not connected with concrete, material or easily measurable facts. They include incentive rewards such as:
• Belonging, including membership in a fitness program group, or registration fees to participate in a fun run.
• Recognition, such as publication of special wellness achievement in newsletter or on the intranet.
• Self-mastery, by offering a workshop to learn techniques to increase self-control of eating habits.
• Ability to contribute such as being a mentor to offer peer support opportunity.
• Group Competition like fun runs, or corporate triathlon.

However incentives are not the only way to increase participation in your corporate health programs. The characteristics of a best practice health promotion program should incorporate various components, as recommended by John Lang, President of the Health and Productivity Institute of Australia (HAPIA). He suggests that the components should include:
• Endorsement from the CEO to show his/her commitment and support to such a program
• Participation by senior leaders, and CEO if possible
• Proper communication and marketing plan, and branding program
• Creating of Health and wellbeing KPIs for all employees
• Publication of health results and data.

By using incentives, you will not only increase participation to your corporate health program but you will also influence your employees to improve their long-term health status.

For more information on Corporate Health Programs, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888 ).

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