by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Wellness program managers have been copying each other for years, trying to ride the wave of the newest innovation in search of the “1 thing” that will put them over the top, make all their dreams come true, and open the floodgates of engagement.

Some ideas, like paying people to participate, get a tremendous surge of success because they work — in the short term. But those who’ve been at it for 5 years or more have started seeing the effect wear off, and are having to decide whether to up the ante and risk breaking the bank, or scrap the concept altogether and risk ill will among employees who’ve come to rely on the wellness incentive money as part of their income.

While all innovation involves risk, there may be some steps you can take to mitigate it by asking the right questions before you implement the latest and greatest concept in employee health and productivity:

  • Has this been done in the real world?
  • Has it been replicated by others? For how long and to what degree of success?
  • What is the cost this year? What will be the cost in 5 years? Is that cost sustainable if business tanks?
  • What will this do to employee perceptions of the wellness program if it’s taken away at some point in the future?
  • If you get low participation levels, but intense, passionate users, will it make economic sense to continue? What’s the breakeven point on this intervention?
  • If there were significant turnover in management, would this be sustainable? Could you defend it to a skeptical CEO?

Even if some of these questions are unanswerable, or the answers aren’t all you’d like, that doesn’t mean you should scrap the innovation. But the information gives you more to think about in terms of risk and reward. If the potential reward is high, it may be worth the risk. If it’s low, you may want to save it for another day.