Benefits and Compensation

6 Reasons Cash Is a Rotten Carrot: The Pitfalls of Cash Wellness Incentives

By Bryan Van Noy, cofounder of Sonic Boom Wellness

When it comes to wellness incentives, cash is quite common. It’s commonly abused, commonly ineffective, and oh-so-commonly unoriginal. The jury may still be out on the superiority of carrots over sticks, but don’t fall victim to this obviously rotten carrot. Just because employees request cash above all other forms of incentives doesn’t mean employers should succumb. There are better (and not so uncommon) alternatives. Here are six reasons why you shouldn’t use cash as a wellness incentive.

  1. It’s fungible
  2. Money is inherently fungible, meaning that if you give an employee $100 for losing weight, those five new $20 bills automatically and seamlessly mix with the bills already living in her wallet—and she soon (if not immediately) forgets how she got that $100 in the first place. Whether it came from a standard paycheck, a meaningful health achievement, or a slot machine, cash is cash (is cash). And worse—there’s nothing preventing the employee from buying beer and Twinkies with her hard-earned “wellness” dollars.

  3. It has no trophy value
  4. Tangible, noncash awards have “trophy value.” Cash does not. Trophy value means that the reward serves as an emblem of achievement … a constant reminder of success. The employee using a water bottle every day, which she won by engaging in the wellness program, is reminded with each sip how she earned the prize. These kinds of low-cost, tangible items also help promote the wellness program and have higher perceived value for recipients. It’s a win-win-win for employee motivation, engagement rates, and your budget.

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