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by Alex Palmer | December 24, 2015
As the New Year approaches, with all its accompanying health and exercise resolutions, it seems a fitting time to discuss wellness incentives. We spoke with Mike Tinney, founder and CEO of the game-based wellness company Fitness Interactive Experience (featured in our March/April 2015 cover story) about what incentive planners should be thinking about in and preparing for 2016. Here are a few of his thoughts

Incentive Magazine: You've said that 2015 was a "rebound year" for corporate wellness - how so? And what do you expect to see in 2016?

Mike Tinney: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) launched in 2014, and most companies did not buy any new services (like wellness) while they got their arms around what the ACA meant to them and their bottom line. In 2015, the market picked up and companies started to invest in employee health again. Of course, some always did, but most of the wellness companies seem to agree that 2014 was a down year.
 
I think we'll start to see some standardization, partnerships, and alliances form in 2016. Wellness is such a complicated issue, it's rare that one company can be great at every aspect of it. So I think we'll start to see platforms bringing together the best in class of various wellness providers.
 
IM: How can organizations use the "New Year's Resolutions" season to engage workers in durable, long-term wellness programs?

MT: Well, more people feel guilty about their health in January than any other time of the year, so there's certainly a "strike while the iron's hot" aspect to a January effort.
 
Most professional services require a little lead time to deploy within a company, so the best plan for a company deciding, more or less at the last minute, to embrace wellness probably would be to keep it simple at first. Organize some company walks or bring in a local fitness expert to run a class. But use those short-term, last-minute efforts as a build-up to a more polished program. Hire a wellness company, a group that's used to working with "reluctant adopters," to get your population's attention focused on healthy behavior changes.

IM: You've said that organizations tend to focus on assessment/measurement while letting engagement efforts slide. Why do you think that is?

MT: I think that up until recently, those were the services that wellness companies chose to offer. Organizations like Healthways were wellness trailblazers, and those early programs consisted of measuring and assessing the health of an employee population. That initial step hasn't resulted in any real habit changes (if you go by national health data).
 
IM: What are some ways that organizations can bolster their engagement efforts when it comes to wellness?

MT: Get leadership, especially the CEO involved. Reward and recognize people for participating. Stand on the shoulders of past successes and own prior missteps. The initial uptake on your next wellness effort will be influenced by your prior wellness track record. Make it a team effort.

IM: Can you give an example of an organization that is doing it right?

MT: Methodist Health Systems, Compass Minerals, and Coca-Cola all seem to have a pretty strong health and wellness ecosystem.