Feature Article - January/February 2020

Wellness to Well-Being

Wellness Programming, Incentives & Reward Strategies

By Rick Dandes


Think Outside the Box

It is important to offer incentives for people to take wellness actions and achieve results, said Ozer, of Engagement Partners, but small awards can work just as effectively as large ones, "so no need to overdo it. It is also critical to give incentives and recognition for actions, which are 'leading indicators' of improved health and wellness, versus just for results, such as achieving a weight loss goal, because these are lagging indicators."

Companies are getting more creative in their reward offerings. "We talk a lot about groups that don't have rich budgets and the kinds of non-monetary awards they can offer." Patel said. "We found in many cases, especially with companies where the average salaries are pretty high, a monetary award of $50 a month for attorneys who make a significant amount of income, isn't motivating. But when we offered a private one-on-one lunch with senior partners, that was a great reward for individuals who were excited about having a one-on-one with someone who was fairly senior in the company."

Patel offered three examples of creative rewards that don't necessarily cost a lot of money:

  • With 235,000 employees globally, including 200,000 in the United States, Bank of America doesn't play around when thinking about the best way to cost-effectively promote employee engagement in their wellness program, Patel noted. When employees get rewarded, they can choose to send a donation to Habitat for Humanity or pay into an employee relief fund, which will be used to help their teammates when they are faced with financial challenges. The benefits are financial and organizational.
  • Southwest Airlines, Patel said, is also using more creative incentives outside of just offering straight cash. Southwest is famous for using actual employees in marketing materials, including advertisements, commercials and the website. This "perk" is deeply rooted in the culture of Southwest, so it only made sense for Southwest to build it into their emerging culture of health. Although the company still offers cash rewards, one of the most coveted prizes is getting placed on the cover of the website.
  • Zappos is famous for its robust employee benefits and wellness program, Patel said. It offers event reimbursements for any wellness event that an employee participates in. One of the newer Zappos initiatives is called Wellness Adventures, where the wellness coordinator takes a small group of employees from different departments off-site to do something fun away from their desks, like an hour-long golf lesson, laser tag or trampolining. In addition to being fun, it draws individuals from multiple departments, which facilitates interaction amongst colleagues who may not know each other very well. Personal relationships strengthen their wellness and overall culture. In addition, Patel said, it exposes employees to activities they may have not otherwise been exposed to, which creates an opportunity for individuals to find new activities to motivate them to be healthy.