Friday, February 20, 2009

Tip of the Day: Cash is the biggest carrot

I'm not a scientist, and I could tell you that cash is king. If you want someone to do/not do something, paying them is a good way to get the desired result.

However, for you empirical types, actual scientists have collected data on the effectiveness of cash as an incentive -- specifically when getting employees to quit smoking.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reports a study published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found smokers who were paid to quit succeeded far more often than those who got no cash reward.

Tracking 878 smokers who lit up an average of a pack of cigarettes a day, one group received up to $750 to quit, spreading out payments to encourage them to stick with it. The poor control group got bupkus.

The nonsurprising result? Ta-da: 14.7% of the folks in the paid group stopped smoking within the first year, compared with 5% of nonpaid group. And after 15 or 18 months, 9.4% in the paid group were still smoke-free, compared with 3.6% of the nonpaid group.

So perhaps the best use of wellness dollars is not in the program itself, but in the incentives? What do you think? How can employers get the best return on their wellness investments? Comment and let me know.

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