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86% of Employers Use Financial Incentives in Wellness Programs

An increasing number of employers incorporate financial incentives in their wellness programs to increase engagement from employees.

A majority of employers use financial incentives in wellness programming.

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- Eighty-six percent of employers offer financial incentives in their wellness programs, according to a new survey from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Fidelity Investments.  This represents an 11 percent increase since 2017, indicating that the strategy may help attract participants to these high-value initiatives.

Employers also increased the size of available incentives from last year, the survey found. Average annual wellness incentives grew from $742 in 2017 to $784 in 2018.

Employers are expected to continue their investments in wellness programming. Sixty-seven percent of employers plan to expand wellness programs in the next three to five years, and are likely to add features that address mental, emotional, and physical health.

“More employers are viewing holistic well-being as an integral part of their overall workforce strategy,” said Brian Marcotte, President and CEO of NBGH.

“The goal is to create a competitive advantage by deploying the healthiest, most productive, engaged and competitive workforce possible to boost business performance and empower great people and communities.

Employers agree that improving employee engagement in the workplace is the top goal of wellness programming, after managing healthcare costs, the survey found.

Sixty-six percent of employers said engagement, increasing productivity, and reducing employee absences are primary wellness goals. In addition, 98 percent of employers agree that improving physical health is an important wellness goal followed by emotional health (92 percent) and financial security (90 percent).

In order to foster engagement, employers are customizing employee communications through multiple digital strategies.

Eighty-five percent of employers say that personalizing communications increases employee engagement. Sixty-one percent of employers use a combination of social media, texting, and mobile apps in their communication strategy. The top three communication technologies for engagement are email (72 percent), an employer-branded website (58 percent), and an HR portal (51 percent).

The survey suggests that employers are confident that their investments in wellness programming will create positive effects on their workforce and corporate performance.  

“The fact that companies continue to dedicate an increasing amount of resources to their corporate well-being programs indicates they are having a positive impact on overall workforce performance,” said Robert Kennedy, Senior Vice President of Fidelity Benefits Consulting.

“These programs have evolved beyond traditional health and lifestyle activities to now include elements of financial security, social and emotional well being, and job satisfaction,” Kennedy continued. “An employer’s well-being programs are now overwhelmingly viewed as a platform to improve employee engagement, increase worker productivity, and reduce absenteeism.”

Employers that effectively use engagement strategies and tailored communications can drive higher wellness engagement rates and create significant savings on health plan costs.

A separate Willis Towers Watson survey recently found that 54 percent of employees said they should be able to earn financial incentives for participating in wellness programs. In addition, 45 percent of employees said they would only participate in a wellness program if they were offered an incentive for participation.

Financial incentives may also provide an excellent opportunity for smaller businesses and government organizations to creatively add value to consumer healthcare experiences.

Cash-strapped small businesses can leverage financial incentives in other forms, such as gym memberships, to alleviate wellness and fitness costs for employees. Financial incentives also provide additional value to low-cost benefits such as preventive care screenings.

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