How Communications Impacts Incentive Program Engagement – the Good and Bad

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

That memorable line, from the movie Cool Hand Luke, ranks as one of the most oft-quoted from movie history. As you likely recall, the immortal words were uttered by Strother Martin just after he attempted to ‘communicate’ his thoughts to Paul Newman using a whip.

Yes, failures to communicate usually end badly (as did the movie for the Paul Newman character).

That doesn’t apply only to prison wardens attempting to communicate with stubborn prisoners. It applies to virtually every aspect of life and business. And it most certainly applies to health incentive programs.

Done right, communications drives engagement. And engagement drives success.

So, while we’ve got your attention, we’d like to communicate some tips for communication success. Over time, we’ve learned that the following 4 strategies can be used to elevate the effectiveness of communications in any health incentive program — including yours.

#1) Make Communications Relevant

What happens when someone is blathering on about something that doesn’t interest or impact you in the least? You soon tune them out.

Your members will do the same if you’re constantly bombarding them with messages that don’t really concern them. And that’s why it’s important that messages be relevant to members, and be tailored to their needs and interests.

#2) Make Communications Timely

Messages that are meant to elicit some action on the part of the member should be conveyed as early as practicable, giving the member as much advance notification as possible. Realtime messaging has been enabled by technology, and using that technological tool is a great way to let members know when they need to complete an activity.

And don’t forget to provide prompt responses to member inquiries. Communication, after all, is a two-way street.

#3) Make Communications Comfortable

Communications with your members are much less likely to be regarded as an annoying interruption if they are delivered in a way that each member chooses.

Some members might prefer email. Others might prefer SMS messaging. Give them the choice. Let your members receive your messages in a way that’s most comfortable and convenient for them, and their response to your messaging is more likely to be favorable. (And they’ll be less likely to ignore or overlook your message entirely.)

One other way to make your messaging comfortable: watch the tone. Using a friendly, we’re-in-this-together tone will produce far better results than an imperious, demanding tone.

#4) Make Communications Limited

Too much of anything is a bad thing. That certainly holds true for communications. Communicate too frequently, and the results will be similar to sending your members irrelevant messages (see tip #1). They will tune you out.

Or, to put it differently: cut out the fluff. When your members receive a communication from you, they should know, even before they read it, that the message is likely to be important — or, at the very least, that it will be interesting.

If you’re not consistently sending limited communications comprised only of essential, interesting messaging, you’ll be training your members to ignore you. (Remember the old story of the boy who cried wolf?)

Keeping communications limited certainly applies to the quantity of messages sent to members, but it also applies to the construction of each individual message. Keep each message focused and targeted; don’t ramble.

The Power of Targeted, Relevant, and Personalized Communications

Consistently conform to the four communication tips above, and your incentive program will likely be far more successful.

Employee engagement is the key to success in any health incentive program. And great communication is a key to driving engagement. As HR Professionals Magazine noted in a recent article, “Your goal has to be to ensure that everyone in the organization fully understands what the program entails, program goals, deadlines, and the steps employees must take to participate.”

And all of that can only happen through successful communications.

What We’ve Got Here…

Great communication with members is truly crucial in health incentive programs. And though it’s common to hear flip references to that famous line from the movies, failure to communicate is no laughing matter.

In fact, if your company’s incentive program is dropping the ball in communications, it’s likely we can amend that famous quote just a bit in describing your program…

What we’ve got here is failure.

Josh Smithey

VP of Products and Sales Enablement - ChipRewards