two shipping company workers at container yard

The new book The Power of Fifty Bits: The New Science of Turning Good Intentions into Positive Results is the first practical guide to help business leaders apply the principles of behavioral economics (sometimes called “Becon” for short) to workforce engagement issues, including wellness and benefits. Author Bob Nease, PhD, who was the chief scientist at Express Scripts for many years, provides a framework of seven strategies that have been proven to measurably improve choices and behaviors.

For benefits managers and wellness program leaders, this strategic framework offers three key advantages:

  • Effective: The most important advantage is that the strategies get significantly better results than relying solely on plan design, incentives, and participant education.
  • Voluntary rather than mandatory: By using behavioral science to “nudge” people to voluntarily make the better choice, employers can achieve results that are almost as effective as pushing them with mandatory programs — with much less noise and cost to morale.
  • Optimistic: The data shows most people want to do the right thing (see below). Using the seven strategies, you can give them the help they need to live out those good intentions. 

Do the Right Thing (Yep, people want to.)

A powerful example of data showing that people really do have good intentions comes from the area of prescription drugs. A national study by Express Scripts discovered that:

  • Eight of 10 users of brand-name drugs would rather be on a generic.
  • Five out of 10 people getting their medications in retail would rather be getting their long-term medications from home delivery.
  • Four of 10 users are willing to move to a different retail pharmacy if it saves their employer money … even if it doesn’t save the employee money in the near-term.
  • Nearly 70% of nonadherence in taking medications for high blood pressure is completely accidental — patients periodically forgetting or procrastinating on refills and renewals.

My next post will provide four examples of applying the strategic framework to specific workforce issues, such as actually changing behaviors regarding these prescription-drug issues in order to save money and improve health.

By the way, three of the strategies in the behavioral economics framework typically require expert communication talent to achieve optimal results. Contact us to learn how our team at Aspendale Communications can help.

Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the podcasts Engaging Leader and Workforce Health Engagement, and he is CEO (chief engagement officer) of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. If you know anyone who would benefit from this information, please share it!