As more employers look to expand their enterprise-wide wellness efforts, many continue to be stymied by insufficient participant engagement. In recent years, the “go-to” solution has been monetary incentives – paying people to do what is good for them.
That approach seemed to be effective at driving transactional events, such as biometric screenings or health assessments, but getting individuals to take further positive steps has proven difficult.
A new and intriguing tactic of social gaming is now emerging as an engagement driver with a different angle. This concept has begun to create a degree of excitement among both participants and the companies that have adopted the approach.
A recent Business Week article highlights some of the many players moving into position to capitalize on the inherent attraction (addiction…?) of gaming to help motivate health behavior change.
Most analysts watching this space see the underlying appeal of game as an effective stimulant of desired actions. They regard the hallmarks of gaming: Exploration, Socialization, Competition and Achievement as directly applicable to motivating good health and wellness behaviors.
Who’s in the Game?
Among current players, Keas has an approach that allows individuals to form teams of up to six players that compete with lifestyle-related activities and on-line quizzes; Healthrageous provides support for both wellness and chronic care, including social media applications; MindBloom’s Life Game enable individuals to create their own plan based on what’s important to them; and Daily Challenge from MeYou Health delivers simple activities designed to improve well-being, along with social-sharing platform.
The competitive spirit and team support that a well-structured gaming approach can offer – at a far lower cost – may just be the stimulus to evolve the incentive model away from cash rewards as an engagement solution.
Those employers experimenting in this space may find that success comes with some extra amount of personal time being spent on the games, but they should also see a positive morale boost that can enhance their culture, in addition to the motivation toward physical activity, stress reduction, better nutrition, or other targeted behaviors.
The area is new enough that data on sustained behavior change is limited, but as learnings emerge, we expect to see sufficient advantages for this approach to displace standard incentives. Stay tuned….
Some say that the health and well-being improvement area needs some fresh thinking and new approaches. Others claim that there is too much conservatism among buyers. We say, let the market decide and go from there.
Surveys continue to report that low levels of engagement are the biggest challenge for the improving health behaviors. If gaming can engage, then bring it on.
But we would also say, make sure that the elements of the overall program are well-integrated so that strategic efficiencies and good data are part of the outcomes story.
People love a good challenge, and if achieving better levels of well-being or improved health are the result of the competition, then there should be plenty of winners…!