Another proven method of increasing participation is offering incentives.7–11 Incentives come in all shapes and sizes. They may take the form of a simple cash reward for completing a program activity, like an HRA, or merchandise or gift card—these tend to be the most popular form of incentives among employers.7 Your incentive could even be a simple public recognition of employee achievements.11 However, some employers offer incentives that are tied to employees’ existing health benefits packages, like reducing their health insurance premiums.7 There is some evidence that incentives linked to employee benefits have a stronger effect on participation.9 Cash-based incentives may be more popular, but do have tax implications.
Incentives can also be linked to outcomes, like weight loss or lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.11 There is not yet a consensus on outcome-based incentives’ effectiveness to change health behaviors, but they continue to rapidly increase in popularity. AHA advocates the use of outcome-based incentives with appropriate consumer protections as part of a reasonably designed wellness program, making them worth considering as part of your strategy.12
Finally, you should consider the value of the incentives you offer. An effective incentive must be able to motivate employees but should not feel coercive; one study found that each $20 increase in incentive value produced a 1.58 percent increase in participation.9 You must also keep legal and ethical considerations in mind when choosing incentives, as there are legal requirements that your program may not discriminate based on health status and must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot meet certain standards.