Passive Participation Yields Mediocre Results
Everyone had that one class in college where attendance was mandatory. Rain, sleet, snow—you were there or you risked a GPA nosedive and a mean glare from the professor. But just because you were there didn’t mean you were engaged in every lesson. It just meant that you had to show up or get a poor grade.
If that sounds like your wellbeing program, you’re not alone. Though you might have hundreds (maybe thousands!) of participants, your program simply won’t be effective if your participants are phoning it in.
That’s why it’s important to distinguish between employee engagement and participation.
Employee Engagement and Participation: What’s the Difference?
Participation means to take part in something—just showing up to class. But engagement means something greater than that: showing up, asking questions and taking notes. If your participants are just going through the motions to get their award at the end, you’re not reaching the full employee engagement potential of your wellbeing program.
You’re spending time, money and effort on a wellbeing program that your employees participate in, but aren’t really engaged with. So how do you motivate your employees to care?
Take a Look at Your Wellbeing Incentives
If you’re struggling to bridge the gap from participation to engagement, take a hard look at your wellbeing incentives. Are they really motivating and aligning your team and pushing them toward your goals?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it’s time to fully engage with your employees by improving your incentives.
- Is your cash incentive just another line item on your employees’ paycheck?
Cash awards, such as bonus or commission, have become more of an expectation than an actual incentive. When an award appears exclusively in the participant’s bank account, it’s easy to move on and forget where it really came from. Awards such as these can be very hard to reduce, change or migrate away from, especially if the employee has come to expect them as part of his or her salary.
- Are your incentives aligned with the behaviors you want to instill in your employees?
If you’re working toward a healthy, engaged workforce, but your only incentives are gift cards that can be used on fast food, something doesn’t quite line up. If your incentives motivate your team, but in an unhealthy, negative direction that goes counter to the message you’re sending with your program, it’s time to change.
- Are your employee incentives aligned with what motivates each participant?
The gold watch your father got for working at his company for 35 years was a great motivator for him to stick around. But if your boss gave you a gold watch, it would probably be collecting dust in a drawer. What used to work—or what works for some people—isn’t a great benchmark of what will work for you.
If you’re not giving your employees freedom of choice to pick the awards that incent them, you’re missing a huge opportunity for motivation.
- Do you exclusively issue performance incentives for frequent demonstrations of positive behaviors?
Good habits aren’t acquired after a day or two, and certainly not from taking just one action. They take constant repetition—some studies say at as much as 254 days—to make them commonplace. And that says a lot about the efficacy of your wellbeing program.
If you’re incenting participants for performing positive acts once or twice, you’ve got room for improvement. Offer rewards only for constant progress rather than one-off successes to ensure overall improvement of your employees and continuous engagement with your wellbeing program.
Unless your wellbeing program is really just for data collection, making constant progress with healthy decisions is mandatory to make lifestyle changes and see healthy, positive outcomes.
- Do you offer experiential incentives or incentive travel opportunities?
Offering tangible awards in your wellbeing program is a great idea—in fact, it’s the route that most wellbeing programs take. And because they’re so effective and obvious, awards often overshadow another approach to incentives: experiential opportunities.
Experiential opportunities, which run the gamut from beach vacations to concerts (and everything in between), offer a unique way for participants to reap the benefits of their hard work. Your participant will always have a mental link between doing a great job and the incredible time they had on a beach vacation or at a sold-out concert that they earned in your program.
The awards you choose for your wellbeing program are the bridge that gets you from passive participation to active employee engagement.