Of course you don’t want to rule with an iron fist, but hear this idea out.
A group of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may have found the key to increasing wellness plan participation: threatening to take something away from employees.
The researchers say the study proved that people are more afraid to lose something they already have than fail to gain something new.
Put another way: Employees are more motivated to act by threats of having something taken from them than by the promise of earning an incentive.
Giveth and then taketh away
The study asked a group of 281 university employees to participate in a walking challenge. The goal was to walk 7,000 steps per day.
The participants were then divided into four groups:
- Control group: Participants received no financial incentive.
- Gain group: Participants received $1.40 for every day they achieved the goal (the max award was $42 a month).
- Lottery group: Participants were offered entry into a lottery with a chance to win a larger cash prize for achieving the goal (although the prizes in this group still averaged out to what was spent in the other groups).
- Loss group: Participants were given $42 at the start of the month and had $1.40 taken away for each day they failed to achieve the goal.
The study went on for three months. The results?
- Loss group participants hit 7,000 steps 45% of the time.
- Lottery group participants did it 36% of the time.
- Gain group participants did it 35% of the time.
- Control group participants did it just 30% of the time.
The mechanics of the loss group incentive worked like this: Participants were told they had $42 dollars in an account at the start of each month of the study. Then, researchers paid the group participants all of the money that wasn’t deducted from their accounts at the end of each month.
The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.