An article last week in Employee Benefit News about the effectiveness of gamification in long-term behavior change had the Wellable office abuzz.
“The researchers downloaded and tested 132 [wellness gamification] apps, many of which focused on friendly competition between peers and coworkers to maintain an exercise routine, or provide weight-loss rewards. Their conclusion: There’s no evidence that these popular apps will provide wellness program participants with positive long-term results.”
As one could imagine, Wellable, which includes gamification as part of its program and relies on the gamification in the apps that it partners with, was particularly interested in the findings from this study. After further evaluation, Wellable was relieved. The study evaluated apps that “focused” primarily on gamification, and more importantly, that these systems were flawed from the beginning because they did not embrace a multi-faceted approach to behavior change and wellness.
You see, successful wellness programs are like pies. In order for wellness programs to be complete, you need all the slices (gamification, rewards, social sharing, etc.). Whether it is a focus on social, rewards, gamification, or other drivers of engagement and behavior change, programs that rely on a single feature or technique will never drive long-term, sustainable results for a material amount of a population – this is due to many reasons.
First, by focusing on drivers of participation, such as gamification, programs will ignore the critical foundations of behavior change. Wellable’s Chief Medical Officer, Shaan Gandhi discussed these key elements – motivation, ability, and trigger – that are pillars of BJ Fogg’s behavioral model and Wellable. The Employee Benefit News articles touches on the need for programs to go beyond “motivation” and embrace “components of behavior” change, and Wellable couldn’t agree more.
That being said, it is important to note that motivators of participation should not be ignored. Although they may not drive long-term behavior change for most employees, social sharing, gamification, and other motivators do encourage participation, which provides the opportunity for more sustainable behavior change methodologies to take effect. Since wellness is a one size fits one solution, Wellable believes that a multi-faceted approach that provides several motivators to drive participation is required. Some employees will be attracted to the competition, others to the opportunity to earn rewards. Regardless, it is incumbent upon a program to broaden the net and approaches by which an individual is driven to participate so that the opportunity to impact their behavior exists.
It is at the intersection of participation and sustainable behavior change where Wellable adds the greatest value. Through a careful curation of the app and device marketplace, Wellable brings only the best-of-breed technologies that incorporate fundamental behavior change techniques. Wellable then uses its seamless integration with these leading technologies, rewards platform, and competitions to drive participation. This multi-faceted approach drives a significant and sustainable portion of an employee base to highly vetted apps that focus on more than just gamification.