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Boost payoff of incentives with these new strategies
Employers want to see sustainable behavior change
More employers than ever are offering incentives for employee participation in health and disease management programs, according to a survey of 242 employers.
The survey was conducted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Industry Committee (ERIC), an organization representing employee benefits and compensation interests of major employers, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), both based in Washington, DC, and Lyndhurst, NJ-based IncentOne, which provides integrated incentive solutions to employers.
"This survey indicates that the American business community is highly interested in innovative strategies to improve their employees' health and productivity," says John Engler, president and CEO of NAM. Of employers offering health management programs, two-thirds encourage employees to participate with incentives. The most common incentive offered is premium reductions, given by 40% of companies, while 29% offer cash or bonuses.
Edwina Rogers, vice president of ERIC, says, "We see that sick employees cost us money, and, conversely, that employees who switch to healthier behaviors save us money as well as improving their own quality of life." Employers are therefore interested in encouraging their employees to engage in healthy behaviors, Rogers says. "In many instances, they are using incentives to do so," she says.
According to NAM's vice president of human resources policy, Jeri Gillespie, this trend only will increase. "All of this leads to more activity and attention for occupational health managers," Gillespie says.
Asking more of employees
To receive incentives, employees are increasingly being asked to participate in a coaching program or other program intervention, says Michele M. Becker, vice president of employee benefits practice for Chicago-based Aon Consulting. "It's no longer enough to take a health assessment," she says. "Individuals at risk need to engage in follow-up activity that can ultimately lead to behavior change."
"Sticks" are sometimes camouflaged as "carrots," such as charging nonsmokers $20 less a month in premium contributions, says Becker. "However, what's perceived as a stick by a smoker can be effectively communicated as a carrot to those who are tobacco-free," she says.
Employers are looking for long-term, sustainable behavior change in addition to program participation, says Becker. "It's one thing to participate in a health assessment or coaching program," se says. "It's another to move your cholesterol or BMI into the target range."
To maximize results from your incentive programs, do the following, experts suggest:
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