Incentives Matter

“If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for some milk.”

It’s one of my favorite children’s books. The premise is simple: it’s a childish metaphor to warn against the “slippery slope.”

Of course, that opening sentence can also be applied to corporate wellness. If you give your employees a wellness program, they’re going to want something to go with it. Why should they change their ways when they don’t have anything tangible to gain?

Reinforcing the ideas of “having more energy” and “increasing productivity” are nice, but it reeks of buzzwords and stuff they hear on TV every ten seconds. They need “real” reasons to buy into the program. This manifests itself in the form of incentives.

Incentives require meeting benchmarks just like bonuses rely on work performance metrics. When I was a student employee with my university’s fundraising department, we would have opportunities to earn bonuses based on how much money (or how many donors) we could reel in on a given night. The same goes for your wellness programs.

Give them an end goal. Give everyone something to strive for, and I mean everyone. HIPAA and the American Disabilities Act require allowances for alternate metrics so that cries of discrimination can be avoided. For instance, it’d be a shame if you started a contest to get your employees to 10% body fat or less. That’s a death sentence for the women, let alone unrealistic.

These sorts of goals can be easily determined. All it takes is an understanding of your workforce and what they want to gain from a wellness program. Is it nutritional education? Exercise programming? Smoking cessation? Reversal of medical conditions? Find what motivates your employees to participate. What are their triggers? their priorities?

Once you’ve found all those motivations, you can customize your program to meet the needs of your employees. Make the prizes worth the effort, and watch the office come alive.

What types of incentives have worked for your company? Share in the comments.

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