Financial Incentives, Communications, and Culture Key to Successful Workplace Wellness Programs


Companies with the highest level of employee engagement in workplace wellness programs have a strong communication strategy, offer a combination of up front incentives, and use employee rewards. These are among the findings of an in-depth statistical analysis conducted by The Vitality Group, part of the world’s first and largest incentive-based wellness program, on its client base to quantify the impact of different factors on engagement.

The study examined three-and-a-half years of program participation with the aim of helping employers optimize their programs to achieve the best health outcomes in the most effective way.

“Our employees are our number one asset and we take pride in our award winning wellness programs,” said Lisa Sanders, Director, Compensation & Benefits, McCarthy Building Co., a 150-year-old construction company and Vitality customer. “Since we first introduced wellness in 2010, we’ve seen a steady decline in our health costs — medical and Rx — per covered employee. Key to this success is the engagement of our employees, and as an example, 93% of our employees participated in at least one healthy activity last year.”

The analysis produced the following insights:

  • Companies with high health participation among employees are characterized by a strong wellness communication strategy, strong upfront incentives, and a platform that promotes ongoing employee rewards for healthy behavior (the industry average is 41% versus almost 60% for Vitality).
  • Companies that have wellness champions were found to have 41% higher levels of employee engagement (average number of activities jumped from 31.6 activities for those with low- to medium champions, versus 76.4 activities for those with strong champions).
  • The maximum value of the incentive offered is one of the most effective levers for increasing employee health participation and engagement. The study found that there is a direct positive relationship between the level of both health participation and engagement with that of the maximum incentive offered.
  • Simple company actions such as offering onsite health screening can have a significant impact on employee participation.
  • Industry and company size were found to have little impact on health participation and engagement after taking into account incentives and company support functions. While those companies with higher geographic concentrations saw slightly higher participation levels (66%) than those with spread out (60%) or normal populations (53%).

“Our research offers hard data and analysis finding the impact of these programs is very dependent on design,” said Alan Pollard, CEO of The Vitality Group. “By better understanding the types of incentives and employer support that has the most impact on health, we can better determine how to help employers get the best results at the lowest costs — tailoring incentives to promote engagement, reduce health risks, and improve employee well-being and productivity.”

How Vitality Works

Members start with an online Health Risk Assessment that identifies relative risk factors for each member and provides them with their Vitality Age™. This is a scientifically calculated representation of their risk-adjusted or “true” age, allowing each member to easily understand how their current behaviors are impacting their health.

Each member is then presented with a Personal Pathway™, a recommended set of activities and goals to assist them in improving their health. Members can select from more than 30 health-related activities including exercising, achieving health goals such as losing weight or stopping smoking, receiving routine preventive care, such as a prostate exam or mammogram and participating in a health education program. Members are incentivized for their participation throughout the program and earn rewards.

Additional details on the engagement study can found here. For more information about the Vitality program, visit or @TheVitalityGrp.


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