Employees Leaving Wellness Incentives on the Table

Getting employees to take full advantage of incentive-based health improvement programs can be a challenge.

By Rebecca Moore | March 26, 2015
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Employers will spend an average of $693 per employee on wellness-based incentives in 2015, up from $594 in 2014 and $430 five years ago, according to the latest survey about wellness programs from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).

Many employees aren’t taking full advantage of these programs and earning all of their incentives. Fewer than half (47%) of employees earned their full incentive amount in 2014, while 26% earned a partial amount. Together, this translates into millions of dollars of unclaimed incentives.

“The next challenge for companies is to continue to find ways to increase participation in these programs and encourage employees to earn the full incentive amount available to them, which will contribute to their financial well-being as well as their physical health,” says Robert Kennedy, Health and Welfare practice leader with Fidelity’s Benefits Consulting business in Boston.

“It starts with design and using data to be sure programs are relevant and match the needs of employees,” Kennedy tells PLANSPONSOR.

He says incentives will get some employees engaged in the programs, but beyond that, communications play a strong role. “Communications should set the context for employees—explaining why the employer is offering the programs and what it hopes to accomplish.”

Kennedy suggests frequent, short reminders about how to take advantage of incentives, using a variety of channels—emails, the employer’s intranet site or employee meetings. Short messages should contain a click-through for more detail for those employees who want it. Timing of messages is also important. For example, Kennedy says, if the employer offers a program in which employees can earn incentives quarterly, reminders should be sent well before the end of each quarter.