Rewards and incentives often create challenges to finding budget for wellness programs because they often comprise a large component of the total expenses. In a fairy tale world, wellness administrators would always be able to sell executives on funding incentives that drive successful programs. Since none of us live in the same neighborhood as Cinderella, employers must start thinking about smarter ways to allocate funds and bridge the divide between limited rewards and employee engagement in wellness programs.
A recent article in Managed Healthcare Executive details the wellness activities employees are willing to engage in without rewards and the percentage of employers offering rewards for those programs. The numbers are shocking. For example, 32% of employers offer incentives for smoking cessation programs despite only 14% of employees being likely to complete a program without an incentive. For all intense and purposes, employers offering smoking cessation programs without an incentive are dooming themselves to programs with limited success.
For employers with constrained reward budgets, the key is to see this data and look for opportunities. Fitness and weight loss programs have one of the highest percentages (44%) for employees to likely complete without an incentive. By focusing a limited budget on affordable programs that have less dependence upon incentives, employers can maximize their participation and completion rates and drive the greatest value out of their program. This is why we encourage employers to start their programs off with wellness challenges that focus on physical activity and nutrition. Employers can leverage existing technologies through a BYOD wellness strategy and have a successful program without a large incentive budget.
Another interesting statistic from the article is the breakdown of rewards being offered by employers vs. the rewards employees find the most motivating. Cash is being underutilized relative to its demand and incentives tied to health plans (premium reduction and HSA contribution) are being over utilized. Employers also should incorporate this information in their wellness reward strategy. If possible, surveying employees is a great way to determine the specific rewards that will drive the greatest impact.