It’s a Jobseeker’s Market—Here’s How to Hang on to Your Employees

By Theresa McEndree, Vice President of Marketing at Blackhawk Network

Businesses today are operating in an ultra-competitive hiring environment. The U.S. unemployment rate is less than four percent—meaning there’s a decreased supply of talent and less competition among job candidates. Businesses are clamoring for the best and brightest, and people have plenty of employment opportunities available to them if they aren’t satisfied at their current jobs. Workplace culture and engagement matter, which is why companies are turning to employee reward programs to keep employees happy and with their businesses.

Research from Blackhawk Network1 has shown that successfully executed employee reward programs deepen employee engagement and loyalty. And it makes sense—people want to feel appreciated and valued. But in addition to keeping your employees involved, rewarding them can also reduce expensive turnover and encourage them to work harder.

Here’s how you can hang on to your employees using an employee reward program:

Offer the right rewards.

Company t-shirts and tchotchkes are overrated. Employees want rewards they find meaningful, offer choice, and make them feel appreciated. But they also want the flexibility to select and enjoy rewards on their terms. There’s an option that satisfies all of those parameters. Research1 has found that employees overwhelmingly prefer gift cards as rewards—and that offering gift cards as rewards has a significant impact. In fact, 69 percent of employees surveyed report feeling valued when receiving a gift card from their employer. The research also found that gift cards feel like financial rewards to employees, make them feel like their company cares about them, motivate them to stay with their company and encourage them work harder. Plus, they’re easy to give and redeem. Why bother giving them another company keychain?

Talk with us about branded rewards today.

Tailor rewards to different generations and lifestyles.

Your employees are a diverse group. It’s unlikely that your digitally savvy Gen Z social media manager is going to want the same reward as a boomer accountant who doesn’t live on her smartphone. Knowing what motivates and resonates with different generations and lifestyle preferences helps maximize reward impact for each subgroup. Offering a mix of reward options is a sure-fire way to create meaningful engagements with everyone. For instance, don’t just offer gift card rewards that can only be redeemed with one brand or retailer. Research1 confirmed that 63 percent of employees want gift cards that feature their choice of brands. Some reward providers like offer reward cards that can be redeemed at hundreds of brands—greatly increasing the odds that at least a few will be among your employees’ favorites. Try to also dole out rewards in different denominations and forms (e.g., physical and digital) to provide even more choice your employees will appreciate.

Personalize rewards.

If you earned a trophy, would it feel as special without your name on it? Blackhawk Network’s research1 found that fewer than one in five employee reward program managers take advantage of adding a thoughtful touch like including a recipient’s name on a gift card reward. And fewer than one quarter of reward program managers use personalization options like putting the company logo or recipient’s name on a plastic or digital reward card. These are huge missed opportunities to reinforce a positive employee interaction with your brand—yet the technology is out there ready to be used. offers options for reward card givers to add their logo to the cards for brand recognition, include words of thanks to each individual and other opportunities to personalize the cards for unique user experiences. Small details like these can go a long way in singling out employees for their specific contributions and accomplishments—and won’t go unnoticed.

Deliver rewards quickly.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is an accurate term for rewards that take forever to be delivered. Instead of saving rewards for a once-a-year company luncheon, try to offer more frequent rewards to immediately reinforce the behaviors that led to an award in the first place. Delivering rewards in a timely manner quickly recognizes employees for positive behaviors and makes the (more frequent) engagements more meaningful. You can keep the lines of communication open more easily by frequently reaching out to employees that are doing well—helping build loyalty every step of the way and keeping them engaged and productive.

Employee engagement matters. Happy, connected employees are less likely to leave your company, which in today’s fierce employment landscape can have a huge impact on your bottom line. The recipe for hanging on to these valuable company assets is simple; offer well thought out reward programs that acknowledge their individuality as employees and people.

1The “Blackhawk Network Incentives Study” consisted of an online survey conducted by Murphy Research on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 4 and February 12, 2019. The sample size of 1,002 was comprised of U.S. reward program managers who have full or partial responsibility for purchasing rewards or managing incentive programs at companies that offer employee, customer or channel incentives. Industries included in the survey include health and wellness, travel, financial, retail and telecom. The “Gift Card State of the Union” study included a sample size of 3,389 respondents between the ages of 18 and 75.