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Wellness programs boost performance in Virginia companies

The Daily Press reports that companies in the Newport News area have increased their use of employee reward programs to generate savings on healthcare costs.

A Newport News, Virginia, construction company has experienced significant gains from its new employee wellness program. Employees are more motivated, productive and engaged thanks to company efforts to motivate workers to exercise regularly.

The Daily Press reports that companies in the area have increased their use of employee reward programs to generate savings on healthcare costs. Staff members are rewarded for being active or taking educative classes about their personal health. The companies themselves found the programs have worked to increase employee engagement levels and reduce turnover.

Wellness programs are gaining in popularity as health insurance costs rise. The American Journal of Health Promotion estimates that for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs, healthcare costs drop by $5.81. Bon Secours in Richmond, Virginia, saw a 12 percent drop in medical claims in 2010 as result of its employee incentive programs, according to the source.

There are a number of ways that companies have sought to motivate workers. Bon Secours offers a bonus for signing up for annual health screenings, while Newport News-based Ferguson Enterprises supplied pedometers to its employees to help them track their exercise throughout the workday. More than a quarter of the firm's workers joined the program, which has helped reduce absenteeism.

Factors for a successful reward program
"You'd think it would be easy – offer rewards and recognition for top-notch performance and business results will follow. Truth is, it's just not that simple," said Michelle Pokorny of Maritz Motivation Solutions. "To move people to action, organizations need to view their employees and business allies as people first. Instead of asking, 'How do we get them to do what we want?' businesses should ask themselves, 'How can we create an approach that delivers mutual benefit?'"

Pokorny stated there are four factors that make reward programs successful:
1. A strong, clear goal; the program is about creating a shared vision in which everyone can believe
2. An actionable strategy that shows commitment to that goal
3. Regular feedback about performance
4. Compelling rewards

The rewards should be meaningful and of value to the participants to ensure continued involvement. Many companies start with cash incentives, but these can actually become less effective over time. Non-cash rewards can have lasting motivation, as employees will be reminded of their efforts every time they use the items they were awarded. Having a mix of rewards, and allowing employees to choose the ones right for them, keeps everyone motivated.

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