Incentives as a Tool to Improve Workforce Health

Incentives-in the form of both rewards and consequences-are playing an increasingly important role in helping employers drive participation in health programs and encouraging employees to take actions to improve their health, according to new survey findings from Aon Hewitt. The survey of large and mid-size U.S. employers found that 83 percent offer employees incentives for participating in programs that help employees become more aware of their health status. These actions may include taking a health risk questionnaire or participating in biometric screenings. Of the 83 percent of employers that offer incentives for these types of programs:

79 percent offer incentives in the form of a reward;
5 percent offer incentives in the form of a consequence; and
16 percent offer a mix of both rewards and consequences.

The survey shows almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employers offer monetary incentives of between $50 and $500, and nearly one in five (18 percent) offer monetary incentives of more than $500.

"Employers recognize the first step in getting people on a path to good health is providing employees and their families with the opportunity to become informed and educated about their health risks and the modifiable behaviors that cause those risks," said Jim Winkler at Aon Hewitt. "health risk questionnaires and biometric screenings are the key tools in providing that important information and serve as the foundation that links behaviors to action. Motivating people to participate through the use of incentives is a best practice in the industry and these strategies will continue to be a critical part of employers' health care strategies in the future."

According to a separate recent Aon Hewitt survey of workers who were offered a health risk questionnaire and received suggested action steps based on their results, four out of five (86 percent) took some action. Further, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those who received suggested actions reported they made at least one lifestyle improvement as a result.

Employers also reported seeing some positive impact from offering incentives, with more than half indicating they saw improved health behaviors and/or an increase in employee engagement. In addition, almost half said they believe there was a positive impact on employee morale, satisfaction and/or attitudes, and 44 percent saw changes in health risks.

A growing number of employers are beginning to link incentives to sustainable actions and results, as opposed to having employees simply participate in a program.
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