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This Is How Incentives Impact Employee Motivation

In the last few years, the use of financial incentives has increased manifold, in terms of encouraging employee involvement where health and wellness programs are concerned. Research conducted via surveys shows that most renowned companies based worldwide now offer cash rewards to employees, just to enhance the enrolment in wellness programs.

How Are Incentives Linked With Motivation?

Almost 40% of companies even extended such incentives towards employees’ spouses too, which was 34% in 2013. If you see carefully, the popularity of these incentives even results in increased program participation. One thing that must be remembered is that participation by itself can’t be equated to long-term goals like weight loss measures, fighting cancer or diabetes, or even quitting smoking or drinking.

Basically, participation will not always produce the ‘desired outcomes. Most people often tend to lose out on their motivation and get back to their old behaviors, after an incentive is given. So it’s nothing uncommon to find smoking making a return or digging into rich carbohydrates and fats, resulting in typical weight gain. Results are thankfully better when you combine incentive programs with ‘evidence-based services’ and also ‘behavior-change clinical approaches’.

What Role Do Incentives Play?

In common parlance, incentive strategies can be divided into four categories. First, rewarding individuals after they’ve enrolled or participated in wellness activities or programs, for example- employee challenges. Second, rewarding individuals for any specific health-based improvement, like reduction of BMI and getting back to the normal range or quitting smoking for a long period. Third, rewarding participants who reveal true results of progress made towards general health goals after completing the plan components. Fourth, charging employees higher premiums or deductibles for ‘biometric values’ or punishing using severe penalties, as a result of continuing a wrong behavior from the past or refusing to participate in the current range of programs.

It is not to say that employees only show any of the above-mentioned options, but there are situations where they can pursue even a couple or more, and variations in each category are common. However, it can’t be denied either that in few circumstances, employees participate whole-heartedly in the wellness program, but no positive outcomes happen.

Extrinsic Vs. Intrinsic Motivators

While intrinsic motivation is based on an individual’s core beliefs and values, extrinsic motivation is all about rewards gained after being gifted by oneself or from others, as a result of reaching a target. An intrinsic motivator would align with the person’s desires to live his/her life – like a working mom decides to lose weight to gain more energy for the tasks at hand. On the other hand, the positive outcome of the reward in an extrinsic motivator isn’t meant to last long, since the person is likely to deviate from the behavior after a point in time. One example would be to lose weight for an upcoming event or to earn a financial incentive.

Motivation Crucial To Produce Desired Behavioural Changes

It’s true that incentives actually tend to motivate employees or lead them to complete tasks like assessing health risks or making subtle behavioral changes. It is only when the engagement is a long-term one then people develop the interest or desire to better their wellbeing. So, they don’t require any extrinsic or external motivator for being engaged.

For instance, an employee might participate in a coaching program to elicit desired behavioral responses, for winning a financial award. Probably, he or she might continue to participate even after the initial phase, once he or she has experienced a somewhat fulfilling interaction with the concerned health coach.

No wonder, an employee who gets the same incentive as others may become motivated by his or her personal desire to engage in a lot of home-related tasks and that too with other members of the family. The ability to shed off the extra weight may act as a reinforcement to sustain similar desired behaviors that would keep off the weight. The same, however, cannot be said as true for someone who views the weight loss session as nothing, but earning a reward and then again failing in the same trap!

It is important hence to resort to personalized health coaching, at least for assisting in the process of emergence of sustained behavioral patterns.

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