Would you pay your employees to be healthier to lower your benefits budget? Many businesses are starting to answer that question with "definitely," which has led to health incentive programs exploding in popularity.

Ten years ago, an employee wellness program meant having a gym in the office or offering a stipend to attend one. But in recent years, it's become increasingly common for employers to offer incentives to their employees for making healthy choices. These incentives may come in the form of premium discounts, bonuses or even special privileges like extra flex time or even vacation days. But does it work? And is it right for your business?

Getting Started With Health Incentive Programs

To run an ideal health incentivization program, it's important to invest in human capital management (HCM) software, which can allow you to easily track your benefits administration metrics — from average cost per employee to savings over time. Just as with any project, it's important to evaluate the people you're targeting, create a plan and work with specific goals. Take stock of the general health of your employees, your percent of revenue currently allocated to benefits and the budget you have available to invest.

Expected ROI

The simple fact is that if you can get your employees to be healthier — especially if they move from high-risk patients to moderate or low risk — the amount of revenue needed to pay for benefits likely will go down. The type and extent of offers in your health incentive program and their ROI will be dependent on how healthy your staff already is, and how stubborn the least healthy individuals are. However, once you discover the incentives that inspire your employees to live healthier lives, you'll likely receive ROI in a variety of categories:

  • Over 90 percent of employees say that a health and wellness benefits program would sway their decision when it comes to job placement, according to the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies. This could influence both brand loyalty and attractiveness of potential new employers.
  • Deeply embedded recognition programs of all kinds are proven to have an extremely positive effect on employee engagement, motivation, satisfaction and retention, notes WorldatWork.

While any business would love to see these types of numbers, know that health incentive programs live and die by the attractiveness of what they offer to the specific employees that they're targeting. You won't get the above results if the already healthy individuals on your team are the only ones that cash in — so provide a variety of prizes that would convince any of your employees to put in the effort. Encourage your HR team and your midlevel managers to work together to determine exactly what those incentives should be — and don't be afraid to survey your employees directly. Who knows what some of your employees will do for an extra day of vacation or free tickets to their favorite band.

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Tags: Voluntary Benefits Compensation