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Going Beyond Series – From Incentives to Rewards, A New Platform

Welcome Part Four of our special series “Going Beyond” where we’ll be challenging the status quo in the wellness industry with fresh thinking, new approaches and increased accountability.

Incentives once were considered the silver bullet for driving participation and engagement in initiatives aimed at improving health. However, incentives have a negative connotation with many consumers and are more commonly viewed as punitive measures if a certain activity isn’t completed, instead of positively reinforcing healthy behaviors. Many programs have allowed participants to self-report activity to collect on incentives, without any verification that they had fulfilled the requirements of the incentive. This reinforced poor habits instead of nurturing healthy ones.

Rewarding individuals for taking steps toward improving their wellbeing can be highly impactful, as long as it is strategic. Much can be learned from reward programs developed and deployed by major consumer brands to encourage transactions for everything from hotel rooms to airline tickets. The way these big brands maintain the loyalty of their customers and strategically drive specific buying habits over time increases the value and deepens the relationship they have with each individual. The same approach must be applied if we are to help individuals reach their true potential.

Instead of blindly dishing out gift cards or “lump sum” incentives for one specific action (i.e. completing a screening), we need a more scientific approach that drives high levels of participation while delivering rewards that positively influence the development of healthy habits across the benchmark wellbeing risks.

RewardsThe strategy must answer the following questions:

✔ What are the rewards being used?
✔ How frequently are rewards granted?
✔ How much value does each reward carry?
✔ What mix of activities and/or outcomes are being rewarded, and why?
✔ How are rewards verified to confirm specific behaviors and actions have occurred?


Ultimately, the goal of a reward program is for every individual in a population to have a sense of personal wellbeing. When healthy habits have been nurtured long enough to take root, individuals start to make healthier decisions above and beyond the activities that are rewarded. It becomes a way of life. They might choose to park further from the front door to get extra steps, to have one beer instead of two after work, or to pause and do a breathing exercise to improve their mindfulness and reduce stress. You don’t get there by randomly awarding t-shirts. You get there through a scientific approach.

<<< Read Part Three of Going Beyond: Building an Evidence-Based Wellbeing Strategy

Stay tuned to our series on Going Beyond for more guidance on how you can help your organization, and your employees, reach true potential. Also, check out our whitepaper The Roadmap to True Potential for a one-stop guide to going beyond.




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