How to Get Honest Answers from Employees in Your Wellness Program

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Employer wellness programs always need honest answers from employees when they complete health risk assessments (HRAs), health surveys and well-being assessments (WBAs).  Honest answers are needed from employees to enable wellness vendors and program staff to provide meaningful help to the individual involved so that it helps the person improve their health and well-being.  This need becomes even more critical when the information provided is to be ultimately used in some way in a wellness incentive program. However, when employees try to “game” a wellness incentive program by providing knowingly dishonest answers everybody loses.

One of the primary strategies for getting honest answers from employees around wellness issues is to provide a trustworthy program and the careful use of “sentinel features”.  “Sentinel features” are tangible ways of structuring the survey and the survey completion process itself so that overt as well as subtle psychological and sociological effects work to induce or compel the respondent to be more truthful by providing honest answers.

Presented here are 21 different examples of possible sentinel features that can be used with virtually any wellness program.  Each of these various sentinel features can be configured in the survey, testing and data collection process of your Wellness program to improve the honesty of participants’ responses and help prevent “gaming” of the incentive features. Each of these sentinel features has somewhat different levels of strength and effect in inducing honest answers so that some experimentation is usually warranted.  It is also generally advisable to select several of these sentinel features identified below and deploy them carefully in your wellness program.

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