Getting Your Employees In Shape: The Stick Rather Than The Carrot

A recent US study showed that employees who risk losing the health premiums they had already received were more diligent in exercising than those who received the same premium, but only after their goals were met… The study’s highlights.

The study in question, recently published in the March issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, was conducted by the medical faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers asked 281 participants to walk at least 7000 steps per day for a period of 26 weeks.

Participants were divided into four groups: in the first group, employees received a $1.40 bonus every time they reached the daily goal; the second group received no premium; in the third group, employees who had reached the daily goal had access to a lottery; and in the last group, employees received the full premium of $42 earlier in the month, but lost $1.40 every time they did not reach the daily goal.

The result? It is the latter group, where the premium was paid in advance, and subsequently removed in case of failure, which performed best in achieving the objectives. Employees in this group completed the walk at a 45% rate, which amply exceeds that of the no incentive group (30%), but also those with a daily bonus (35%) and those with access to the lottery (36%).

An important discovery, according to the researchers, because “most company health programs usually grant premiums after the target has been reached,” noted Kevin G. Volpp, Ph. D, one of the study’s authors. “Our research shows that the potential loss of a premium is a powerful motivator, and it adds to our understanding of what encourages employees to participate in company health programs.”

Not just a bonus issue

Maude Sicotte, CHRP at Lambert HR, however, casts doubt on this conclusion. “In the long term, I believe that it takes more than a financial incentive for such programs to work.” The counselor also points out that, in general, salary and financial benefits are not enough to keep talent within the company.

“To be successful, a workplace health program must fit into the company culture. Employees must feel that it is endorsed and put forward by management.”

For example, you can provide simple incentives such as arranging storage space for bikes, providing showers, or giving employees a flexible schedule. “These are clear signs that an employer gives this issue importance. It then gives a boost to those who decide to be active.”

Maude Sicotte also notes that corporate health programs worthy of their names will create a much wider impact than providing a mere space for physical exercise. “We must take into account both the physical and psychological health of employees.”

Links to the study :

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