A pair of surveys released this week from Aon Hewitt indicate that employers are increasingly turning to incentives to drive health programs and get employees to take actions to improve their well being. Eighty-three percent of 800 large and mid-size American employers — representing more than 7 million workers — now use some form of incentive to get employees more aware of their health status, the consulting firm finds.

To encourage workers to take actions such as filling out a health risk questionnaire or participating in biometric screening, the majority of employers use both carrots and sticks. Out of the 83% that uses incentives, 79% offer rewards, 5% offer consequences and 16% offer a mix of both. In terms of dollar amounts, 64% use monetary incentives of between $50 and $500, and 18% use incentives of more than $500.

“Employers recognize the first step in getting people on a path to good health is providing employees and their families with the opportunity to become informed and educated about their health risks and the modifiable behaviors that cause those risks,” says Jim Winkler, chief innovation officer for health and benefits at Aon Hewitt. “HRQs and biometric screenings are the key tools in providing that important information and serve as the foundation that links behaviors to action. Motivating people to participate through the use of incentives is a best practice in the industry and these strategies will continue to be a critical part of employers’ health care strategies in the future.”

A separate Aon Hewitt survey — conducted in partnership with the National Business Group on Health and the Futures Company — reports that 86% of employees who received suggested actions steps based on their HRQ results took some action. Further, more than half of employers who offered incentives say they saw improved health behaviors and/or an increase in employee engagement.

Of those employers who offer incentives, 24% say they offer them for progress toward or attainment of acceptable ranges for biometric measures such as blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar and cholesterol. More than two-thirds say they are considering this approach in the next three to five years. Fifty-eight percent are planning, in the next few years, to impose consequences on participants who do not take appropriate actions for improving their health.

“Today, employers mainly rely on financial incentives to drive desired activities and behaviors, ranging from building awareness to achieving specific health outcomes,” says Stephanie Pronk, health transformation leader for health and benefits at Aon Hewitt. “However, in the near future, these designs will be most successful and impactful when they are linked to an organizational culture that makes it easier for employees to make healthier personal decisions.”

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