DURHAM – Cree (which soon will change its name to Wolfspeed) is beginning a program to incentivize employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – including a chance to win a $40,000 Tesla.

A spokesperson for the tech company told WRAL TechWire on Tuesday that the priority for the company is the health and safety of employees and the communities in which the business operates.

“To further express our gratitude for those who are vaccinated and to encourage more employees to do so, we are launching a generous employee incentive program with weekly reward drawings starting now until Dec. 15,” the spokesperson told WRAL TechWire.  “Prizes will include items like gaming systems, jewelry, gift certificates and consumer electronics, with the grand prize being a new Tesla Model Y given to a fully-vaccinated Cree | Wolfspeed employee.”

A Model Y retails at just under $40,000.

The program comes as companies across the Triangle debate or implement differing COVID policies.

But will it work?

“Maybe helpful, but maybe not, and not moving the needle much either way,” said Bradley R. Staats, the associate dean of MBA programs, faculty director of the center for the business of health, and professor of operations at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  “Incentives often work, but you have to think about what problem you’re really trying to solve and they might not be the best fit here,” added Staats.

The spokesperson for Cree | Wolfspeed noted that the company has previously “strongly encouraged employees to get vaccinated, increased employee access to vaccines and testing through onsite clinics, and provided key education about the importance of vaccination against COVID-19.”

The company, which is changing its name to Wolfspeed as of Oct. 4, is awaiting specific federal guidance before changing any COVID-related policies, the spokesperson said.

SAS to workers: Get vaccinated or you could be fired

“Research shows that guaranteed cash incentives increase vaccine uptake by around 8%,” said Noel T. Brewer, the Gillings Distinguished Professor in Public Health in the Department of Health Behavior, at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For example, said Brewer, North Carolina’s incentive program was found to be successful in evaluating an early pilot.  And, added Brewer, both governmental policy or the policy of an employer “may both be equally effective.”

Cree name change to Wolfspeed will become official on October 4

The amount of an incentive matters, said Brewer, providing the example that in North Carolina, when the state program incentive rose to $100 from $25, interest in the program also rose.

“Incentives work best when they are contingent on the behavior, are awarded immediately after the behavior, and have a standard utility across people,” said Brewer.  “The program describes may have missed on these three criteria and so could be tweaked to be more effective,” concluded Brewer.

The spokesperson for the company said Cree Wolfspeed intends for its employees to “do what’s best for them and their families.”

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