The key is to make these external incentives relevant, genuine, and part of the overall health behavior change experience.
Practice positive reinforcement with incentives that encourage healthy habits.
When motivating employees to improve their health, you want to practice positive reinforcement by offering incentives that support and encourage positive change. For example:
Negative reinforcement—"make a change or you will be punished!”—can change behavior in some cases, but that type of reinforcement relies on fear. Avoid outcomes-based incentives (e.g., lose 20 pounds to qualify), as those types of incentives can result in legal issues.
Customize rewards for your population.
As risk assessments, tracking devices, and wellness programs evolve, so do the incentives and rewards that companies choose to accompany them. Every program is unique, which is why you want to find incentives that inspire your employees. Incentives should be customizable and accommodate a variety of rewards based on participant goals and accomplishments.
Rather than trying to stock a closet or drawer full of gift cards, it's often easier to work with a partner who can help administer your incentive program. MeYou Health offers an accessible reward center with customizable incentives. In partnership with our customers, we send incentives like fitness devices and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) directly to participants. We also fulfill completion incentives like premium discounts, deductible credits, HSA contributions based on program rules, and more.
Reinforce intrinsic rewards and results.
The moment you introduce external incentives, the wellness experience becomes slightly less genuine and less focused on behavior change and well-being improvement. At MeYou Health, we build all of our health interventions to create long-lasting health behavior change and foster genuine social support – all of which has been proven effective without incentivizing participants outside of our programs. In fact, our 30-day retention rate without incentives is 83% across our book of business.
When thinking about incentives, plan for opportunities to encourage participants to reflect on the personal benefits they’ve experienced after adopting and maintaining new behaviors.
“Since making changes to my diet and exercise habits, I have lost 55 pounds,” said one Walkadoo participant when reflecting on the intrinsic benefits of the program. “I’m no longer on blood pressure medication, and I’m showing no trace of diabetes! Because I’m now able to stay on my feet for hours at a time, I’ve started a new job as a part-time customer service agent at a nearby cruise port.”
Once people adopt healthy behaviors and see the results, external program incentives are often replaced by the long-term intrinsic rewards people experience from living a healthier lifestyle. In the meantime, offering relevant incentives to encourage healthy behaviors is a great way to inspire employees to take critical steps toward a healthier lifestyle.