The article linked below, Wellness Programs and Overstepping your Boundaries in the Workplace by Jeffrey Phillips does a nice job summarizing in just a few paragraphs the evolving landscape of wellness programs which are being increasingly adopted by US companies and shaped by government regulations.
Ironically the article, which mentions the word “incentives” in each of the four options it lists as being available to companies, fails to define what a proper incentive program would look like. This is not surprising as only a small percentage of companies have discovered the real pitfalls of using cash or cash substitutes. The article does mention the use of cash and the potentially troubling legal issues it creates in the area of financially penalizing certain workers.
Regardless of the legal issues the truth is that cash is a bad motivator; that’s right, it (cash) fails to drive long-term behavior change which is exactly what is needed in creating an effective wellness program. Study after study has proven this counter-intuitive fact. The great news for employers is that a points based recognition/rewards program that allows participants to redeem the points they earn for tangible brand name products has a proven track record of delivering the long-term behavior change that companies seek, and with far less legal headaches and perception issues.