According to findings by Aon Hewitt, a global HR and human capital solutions business, U.S. employers have begun to rely increasingly on incentives to motivate employee participation in employer-sponsored health and wellness programs. Of the 2000 participating employers, representing over 20 million employees, 84 percent now offer participation incentives to employees taking a health risk questionnaire while 64 percent offer incentives for participating in biometric screenings. Over half of polled employers provide incentives for participation in wellness programs. The incentive most quickly gaining popularity is monetary rewards, having increased to 57 percent in 2011; up from 37 percent last year.
The survey shows that, in fact, more and more employees are linking incentives to the results of their participation rather than simply participating. This is probably tied to the fact that 58 percent of companies offering incentives do so for completing lifestyle modification goals like weight loss or cigarette smoking cessation programs. About 25 percent of incentive-offering companies dole them out on the basis of levels of progress or reaching acceptable ranges for biometric measures.
“Programs and tools like HRQs and biometric screenings can make employees more aware of their health status and of the opportunities to improve their health, but alone they won’t move the needle when it comes to health improvement and mitigating cost,” said Jim Winkler, chief innovation officer for Health & Benefits at Aon Hewitt. “Incentives solely tied to participation tend to become entitlement programs, with employees expecting to be rewarded without any sense of accountability for better health. To truly impact employee behavior change, more and more organizations realize they need to closely tie rewards to outcomes and better results rather than just enrollment.”