3 Ways to Improve Your Employee Wellness Program

  • Apr 25, 2012

what is best way to motivate employees to reach wellness and fitness goalsIs Cash the Best Motivator for Wellness Incentives?

Austin, Texas: There was an interesting article the other day in Human Resource Executive Online about how some employers are moving toward cash incentives as a way to motivate employees to get more fit and to improve their wellness goals.

There has been that cash vs. gift reward debate for decades now — with empirical evidence proving both sides correct .. and incorrect at the same time.

The article cites two examples of the success of cash rewards:

 After Disney enacted its $100 incentive for employees to take a health-risk appraisal, top executives removed the payment — and usage almost vanished.

At Centrix Bank, based in Bedford, N.H., Human Resource Director Debbie Bremberg is “absolutely” convinced that cash awards of up to $250 have led employees to select lower-cost providers of mammograms and colonoscopies.

Neither proves that cash was the best motivator– only that employees want some form of incentive to take a health risk appraisal or assessment or to get a colonoscopy. That is understandable, as neither activity is a lot of fun.

It is true–everyone loves cash.The problem is that once the cash has been spent, it is soon forgotten.  And when it costs over $60 to fillup many cars, SUV’s and mini-vans, the cash does not go very far.

In addition, cash rewards tend to lead to cash expectations — and they soon become part of one’s salary expectations.  Try telling an employee that although last year they were able to earn $500 in Wellness Bucks, this year they are getting nice watches, their own blood pressure readers or a weekend getaway.

Merchandise incentives and other rewards tend to be viewed as gifts, where they can be changed, varied or even eliminated without the feeling that their salaries have been cut.

Companies need to be pro-acvtive in motivating their employees to meet and exceed wellness goals.

Perhaps a combination of cash and gifts are the answer.  Perhaps time off is better. Perhaps travel and merchandise awards work best.

The key is to test, test and test.  Do not ask your employees if they would prefer cash as their reward.  That answer is always YES. Always. Without exception.

But that doesn’t mean it is best for your employees.   Heck, if you ask your employees if they think they are underpaid and are deserving of a raise, they’d also say YES every single time.  Again, it may not be the best for your company.

I’m a big proponent of breaking your wellness reward budget into three sections: rewards, education and promotion–all with equal importance.

1) Rewards: Try days off, lunch with the boss, day at the spa, free swag, cash, merchandise rewards, etc. In actuality, they are all good and each can be very effective if implemented correctly.

2) Education: This area is the most likely to get neglected.  People need to understand why you are encouraging wellness, what’s in it for them, how they can become more fit, etc.  Your employees are smarter than you give them credit for.  If they learn more about the dangers of smoking or their health risk form obesity, they may very well start to come around.

3) Promotion: Kick off your wellness event with a huge bash.  Give employees imprinted pedometers, sports bottles and health and wellness guides–all imprinted with your logo. Have posters and banners throughout your office promoting your wellness campaign. Make it fun. Make it exciting. Make it easy to participate.

If companies spent more time on the education and promotion side, and realize that free rewards are free rewards and they are all good motivating tools,then they will be more likely to stop dragging out the wellness meetings and put their time and efforts into ensuring its success.


  • Category: Wellness Programs
  • Tags: cash vs. rewards, fitness programs for employees, imprinted pedometers, motivating employees to achieve welness, pedometer with company logo, pedometers with logos, promotional pedometers, wellness pr