Five trends in wellness program incentives

Sometimes, we all need a little push to get motivated. To be honest, some of us need a big shove. Especially if we’re trying to change our behaviors.

That’s why, as noted in an earlier post, incentives are the hottest trend in workplace wellness programs.

A recent national survey found 48% of employers plan to tie financial incentives to workers’ participation in health programs in 2013, and 29% were linking them to achieving specific health goals. This strategy also is popular in Michigan, as another survey showed that 42% of companies of all sizes offered incentives for employees who stayed healthy.

How can employers use incentives to boost employee participation and success in wellness programs? Here are five of the latest trends to give you some ideas.

Outcomes-based incentives – According to a Towers Watson survey, 13% of employers use rewards or penalties based on biometric outcomes (for example, target BMI or cholesterol levels), but another 61% are planning or considering adding them in the next several years. A mid-market benefit survey in Michigan  found 8% of employers charged employees a tobacco surcharge.

Earned rewards – Some companies provide employees with pedometers and offer financial reward for walking so many miles in a week or in a month. Walking clubs can boost participation in these programs.

Cash incentives for testing – One company offered $500 off the annual deductible on its health plan for getting a blood test. About 90% of its employees took the test, which helps doctors identify those at risk of developing diabetes and other debilitating (and expensive) medical conditions before it’s too late to prevent them.

Fun and games – One of the hot buzz words in wellness is “gamification,” which includes everything from “The Biggest Loser” weight loss competitions to social network challenges that track how many veggies you eat or minutes you walk each day. By the end of 2013, 60% of employers indicated that their health initiatives will include games or competitions.

Lifestyle benefits Mercy Health in Muskegon motivates employees to participate in wellness by linking their health with their lifestyle. Reminding people that good health allows them to play with the grandchildren or still enjoy the outdoors is a powerful emotional link that can make them take better care of themselves, said Kay Beebe, one of its nurse practitioner.


Photo Credit: Gold Hill Mesa

About Ken Dallafior

Ken Dallafior is Senior Vice President, Group Business and Corporate Marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). Dallafior leads BCBSM's group sales force, oversees corporate marketing and product development, and develops and implements key corporate strategies. He also provides leadership to critical sales operations such as agent relations and commissions, sales incentives and complex issue resolution for group customers and sales agents. In addition to working in the insurance industry for nearly two decades, Dallafior played professional football from 1982 to 1992. He is founder and board member of the Detroit Lions Courage House.
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