Feature Article - January/February 2020

Wellness to Well-Being

Wellness Programming, Incentives & Reward Strategies

By Rick Dandes

Trending: Integration of Platforms

Incentive companies are integrating their reward and recognition platforms with wellness content and technology platforms.

For All Star Incentive Marketing, one new approach is to provide an "a la carte" wellness menu, said President Brian Galonek.

All Star unbundles pricing so that clients can get the features they need without having to pay for services they already have or don't plan to use, he said. "This is achievable because of our wellness software technology, which is uniquely customizable as compared to the off-the-shelf wellness platforms. The health assessment option is a great example of this. Customers are offered choices, from a basic assessment to options designed by some of the top universities in the country. The results can be fully integrated into each member's personal wellness journey."

Coaching is a feature that some companies may not want, while others consider it a must-have feature, Galonek said. Those that choose to include coaching can opt for a basic platform or one that integrates artificial intelligence (AI) to create a more personalized response that addresses the participant's unique health information, based on the data collected. The feature then connects digital coaches to those in need with a personal action plan to combat any current or projected health issues. These more personalized, optional features are intentionally designed to keep members engaged at a higher level.

Agreeing with Galonek, Nick Patel, president of Wellables, said, "Every company is a little bit different and every employee at that company is different, so the way we think about programming is providing a diversity of options, not only in terms of the well-being activities that you want someone to engage in but also how they engage in this activity," he said.

Some people respond to a digital intervention, Patel explained, while others prefer things to be more physical. "Making sure you cover a wide spectrum of dimensions of well-being, as well as having different delivery mediums and engagement activities is always recommended," Patel said. "On the reward side, providing choice is really important, so what might be interesting or motivating for one person may not be for the next person."

People often think of a well-constructed program as one that provides diversity across the board, so how people can earn points and how they can earn the incentive, as well as which incentive they choose, is key, Patel said. "Everyone is motivated from an incentive perspective in different ways."

Another common-sense trend that All Star Incentive has pioneered is to combine wellness with safety, and in some cases other engagement initiatives. The economies here can be huge in that a single unified "total rewards" program is a far more effective way to engage and motivate your workforce, and it can be tailored to a specific industry.

Engagement is the key, Galonek said, "and combining initiatives like safety and wellness, which are very interrelated issues, optimizes program success and makes good financial sense."

One more suggestion, Galonek said, is to seek funding from your insurance providers, which you then can use more effectively in your own programs. "Most insurance companies continue to throw money at wellness initiatives, but they do so very ineffectively," he explained.

Companies that deploy custom-built and custom-branded employee engagement programs built around wellness can better use those resources to promote a more successful platform. "So, we coach our customers to determine how much financial support their insurance companies are paying out for wellness-related awards, such as joining a gym, getting biometric screenings or annual physicals, and request those funds instead be paid into the company to support a more comprehensive program. This is also important because occasionally companies change insurance companies, and it is far better to have a seamless wellness program that is uninterrupted when these changes take place."

What Works

Addressing choice, and what works, Ira Ozer, president, Engagement Partners, Chappaqua, N.Y., said, having an "umbrella" engagement portal that can run all types of programs, including wellness, safety, recognition, incentives and more, is the best and most effective approach. "The benefits include improved centralized communications for participants, one accumulative award currency instead of multiple small awards in different platforms, reporting that can measure engagement across multiple programs, improving efficiency and administrative costs, and more."

A company's wellness program should be looked at as an overall employee engagement tool, Galonek explained. Its primary objective may be to improve the health and wellness of employees, but for many employees it is often the most visible attempt by an employer to engage with them. "As such," he said, "many departments, including safety, operations, sales and customer service, reap the benefits from this same program. Once you see your wellness program in this light, you can more easily understand how and why they can be utilized not only to improve heath, but also to improve morale, job satisfaction and employee retention."

One key to building a successful and sustainable program, Galonek continued, is to put the right incentive in the right place at the right time. "Studies show that wellness program participation rates more than double when companies include a properly built rewards component. Another key is to reward both individual and group accomplishments," he said. "As an example, when you are going to run a company-sponsored step competition, you should put participants into teams and reward not just the individual star performers but also the teams that do the best during any given week. Team challenges and group activities also have been proven to move the needle to increase participation, creating positive inclusion and setting the tone for creating a culture of well-being. This is also a good opportunity to reach into the homes of employees and allow them to include family members in the company-sponsored competition."

It is crucial to custom-brand your wellness or total rewards program, Galonek believes. "You wouldn't buy a dog and name him 'dog,' and you shouldn't name your wellness program 'wellness program.'"

Create a brand name that reflects your goals for the program and your overall companywide mission statement. Create a logo and tag lines that support that brand and promote it like the valuable asset that it is. People respond to brand names in every aspect of their lives, Galonek said, and your custom-branded wellness program can have a powerful influence on their lives and the work that they do.

To be effective, Galonek contends, programs cannot be created and then ignored. Well-run programs require continual attention and planning for things like the scheduling of events and competitions, he said. You also need program "champions" on a granular level, he said. If your company has 100 locations, each with 100 people, you need to call for volunteers to champion the cause in each of those locations. The program cannot be deployed properly with one person or department trying to implement it out of the corporate headquarters.