Employer Concern Over Lack of Employee Motivation in Health Initiatives

by: Nichole Gunn August 17, 2011

According to an article in HR Daily Advisor, 95 percent of the United States healthcare costs go toward the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. Furthermore, over 70 percent of healthcare expenditures are attributed to illnesses that may very well be preventable.

With statistics such as these, it’s easy to see why employers are struggling to design corporate wellness programs to help combat the ever rising healthcare costs. But, a new study by Aon Hewitt (global human resource consultant) demonstrates that employee motivation is a primary obstacle in establishing and maintaining successful programs.

The Aon Hewitt's 2011 Health Care Survey consisted of over 1,000 employers and 56 percent of those respondents cited that employee health habits are something they wanted to improve. Almost 50 percent of the participants want to reduce rising healthcare expenditures. Other areas of interest included: reducing employee health risk factors associated with an unhealthy lifestyle and preventable illnesses, boosting employee participation in wellness programs, and enhancing employee awareness of specific health concerns.

While employers are intent on reducing health care costs through various wellness initiatives, the employees do not seem to be as enthused. This creates a program gap that needs to be filled.

Respondents also noted a number of other challenges including: an aging workforce that needs managing, compliance with government regulations, and the ongoing rising healthcare expenses.

Researching strategies to overcome the lack of employee motivation, businesses are initiating employee incentive programs. While under 25 percent of the survey participants cited they will have wellness programs that incorporate health goal achievement employee rewards within 2011, well over half, 64 percent, have intentions of adopting health incentive and rewards initiatives by 2016.

Taking a more hardcore stand, almost 50 percent of the respondents indicated plans to meet participation reluctance head-on. These businesses will design programs that penalize employees who do not take steps to change modifiable related health behaviors within five years.

In regard to health risk assessments and biometric screenings, 33 percent cited offering incentives for employee participation. Five percent cited penalizing employees for lack of participation in those initiatives. Monetary incentives for healthy behaviors are provided by 66 percent of the respondents, while around nine percent cited monetary penalties for ongoing unhealthy behaviors.

A survey project leader and principal in the Aon Hewitt Health & Benefits Practice Jennifer Boehm explained, “In a challenging economy, organizations are using financial incentives as a mix of rewards and penalties, to motivate behavior change." She added that top employers realize successful programs require more than just a monetary incentive factor. “Those organizations also focus on marketing health improvement services, eliminating barriers to needed care and measuring the impact of specific interventions."

Businesses striving to get employees on board their corporate health programs might take advantage of larger fitness programs, such as the National Association for Health & Fitness' Employee Health & Fitness Month to help motivate and engage employees to participate.