Every company deserves to reap the benefits of having a wellness program that produces happier, healthier, more engaged employees. But many of these companies may be shying away from implementing a wellness program, thinking that costly wellness incentives are the only way for a program to be successful. After all, employees aren’t going to participate unless they’re getting impressive rewards in return, right?
As it turns out, it’s possible to have a wellness program with exciting, sought-after incentives that don’t break the bank.
So what are the secrets to budget-friendly wellness incentives? Here are three things to keep in mind while planning:
Know Your Audience
Different people like different things. Revelatory, we know. But the concept is vital when planning out creative wellness program incentives.
“You have to know your employees and find out which low-cost incentives are meaningful to them,” says Kelly Eger, Account Manager at Terryberry, an award-winning reward and recognition program provider. An industrial workplace filled with senior employees may roll their eyes at kitschy or quirky wellness incentives. “But the opportunity to take an extra-long lunch or leave an hour early, or to get a prime parking spot? That could be really popular and costs the company very little.”
On the other hand, if your workplace is filled with irreverent pop-culture aficionados, quirky may be just what the doctor ordered. Eger knows of one company that has instituted the employee-nominated “Kick Butt” award, with the winner getting to … pose for a photo with a life-sized cardboard cutout of Chuck Norris. It’s a bargain-level incentive that, with this group, skyrockets engagement and team bonding. (Chuck, if you’re reading this, please go visit these people).
Besides knowing your employees, empowering them helps ensure that your economical program incentives get off on the right foot. In the movie Office Space, the employees work for a demoralizing, inhumane boss with a bad habit of announcing at the last second that he needs people to work all weekend. To boost morale, he announces to a thoroughly unimpressed team that "Friday is Hawaiian shirt day!"
It’s economical, but it falls flat. Why? Because it’s coming solely from the top down, with no employee input. It’s simply another management idea foisted upon a captive and resentful audience. Wellness incentives that are unilaterally imposed run the same risk of failure.
"The programs I’ve seen with the greatest ROI started with the employees coming up with the ideas," says Eger. "Even if you just put together a short-term group to start popcorning some ideas on what the program and incentives could look like, you’re giving the employees ownership and leadership. In turn, they cheerlead and communicate the program to the other employees."
One company that Eger worked with even had a BOE—Board of Employees. This group met with Eger quarterly to make sure the program and incentives were working well from the employee side and to come up with fresh new ideas for low-cost rewards and challenges.
Keep it Fresh
The Board of Employees has the right idea: Keeping wellness incentives fresh is key. As tempting as it may be to coast along on the same wellness program incentives for years on end, even the most engaging low-cost incentive—yes, even the Chuck Norris cardboard cutout—will eventually lose its allure.
This is why creativity (and that all-important employee empowerment) are so important. Many wellness programs (like WellRight’s) use a points system. Employees earn points for different activities and challenges and can spend their points on smaller rewards or save them up for something bigger.
If the lower-point rewards are inexpensive and appealing, a larger chunk of budget becomes available for the few employees who decide to stick it out for the bigger prizes.
“Depending on your budget, you may only be able to offer so many things. So, make your low-point items no-cost or low cost, and offer a few (but varied) mid-range items or rewards. Then, use the room in your budget to create a few different major reward packages that generate a ton of buzz,” says Eger. “Then when you change them up, it creates another wave of excitement that carries your program forward.”
Creating wellness program incentives that boost engagement and participation is a task that requires thought and care. Many companies, however, are using their (and their employees’) creativity and insight to develop incentives that are budget-friendly, deeply meaningful, and never stale. And as a result, their wellness programs are thriving.
Want to dig deeper into how to promote wellness and health at your workplace? Watch our webinar, You Built It, So Why Don’t They Come?, featuring Mary Kruse, HealthSource Solutions.