Today’s employees consider more than just salary and benefits when they look for a job—they also look for the right combination of perks and rewards. That’s why it’s no surprise that 94% of US companies offer some type of employee incentives1, including programs that encourage performance, wellness, safety and more.
Our recent Incentives Gift Card State of the Union research revealed that not all rewards are created equal—employees have clear preferences that can help you choose the best incentives to increase participation in your workplace programs.
Tip 1: Rewards Must Be Relevant
To optimize employee engagement, make sure the rewards you offer are relevant. Employees express a preference for reward card brands they like, the delivery method they want (i.e., plastic or digital reward cards), and regionally available spending options. In other words, desirable rewards encourage employees to try to earn them.
Plus, employees want rewards that are relevant to the goals they are trying to achieve, such as an upscale restaurant gift card to celebrate a job well done. It’s particularly important to connect wellness incentives to healthy habit milestones, because the right reward reinforces program objectives and, according to a RAND study, can increase participation by 4X.2
Tip 2: Rewards Must Be Personal
In the workplace, it’s easy to think of employees in terms of groups: the customer service team, the IT department, the healthy lunch club, etc. But employees want to be viewed and valued as individuals, with incentives that acknowledge their unique contributions. It’s great to be part of a winning team—but it’s even better to be recognized for being an essential team player.
Smart idea: Personalize your employees’ rewards by including their name on a Visa® or Mastercard® Reward Card that is also co-branded with your company’s logo. Or, deliver a merchant gift or egift card with a personalized message.
Tip 3: Rewards Must Offer Choice
It’s human nature to want to make choices, from what to wear to what to eat to everything else we do throughout the day. In many cases, the workplace only offers limited choices. After all, employees are assigned tasks to complete and must follow rules and guidelines. That’s why it’s powerful to recognize exemplary employee performance with reward choices; it inspires people to achieve goals when selecting a desirable incentive is an option.
Smart idea: A fun way to give employees choice is to offer Happy Card gift cards, which include four to eight popular merchants on each themed card. Colorful and cheerful, favorite options are Happy Dining, Happy Eats and Happy Moments, but your employees might also like Happy Beauty or Happy Guy.
Tip 4: Rewards Must Be Transparent
Many reward programs let employees receive points that they can redeem for rewards. It’s tempting to think that these points are treated like a bonus, but most employees believe that they’ve earned them through individual efforts and hard work. So, when they redeem points, they want to feel like they’re getting the most value they can. That’s why your points-to-dollars equation should be easy to understand. Don’t make your employees do the math to figure out how much their points are worth.
Smart idea: Encourage point redemption by offering simple but compelling promotions. For example, offer a $25 reward, normally valued at 2,500 points, for 2,000 points. Your employees can easily see that they’re getting a great deal.
Tip 5: Rewards Must Be Achievable
If all of the employee incentives are too aspirational—think a trip to Paris or a new Mercedes—your program will stall out as soon as people realize that they’ll never earn the rewards you’re offering. Plus, lower-value, more achievable rewards are perfect for digital delivery, which is a fast and easy way to send an incentive across town or around the world. Consider all of your employees and the opportunities they have to earn incentives, and adjust your offerings accordingly.
Smart idea: Offer three tiers of employee rewards: achievable ($5 to $25), accessible ($10 to $50) and aspirational ($50+). Some people are delighted with a $10 coffee shop gift card, while others will set stretch goals for themselves to earn higher-value incentives.
Tip 6: Rewards Must Be Part of Your Employee Engagement Strategy
Employee incentive programs that offer reward cards can help create a company culture of recognition, appreciation and pride. In fact, employees who feel appreciated are 87% less likely to leave an organization.3 Here are some statistics from our recent incentive gift card research that show how powerful employee reward cards can be.
Create loyalty and good will
- 66% of employees surveyed say reward cards make them feel like the company cares about them
- 56% are more loyal to the company
- 55% are more motivated to stay with the company
Motivate hard work
- 54% of employees surveyed say reward cards encourage them to work harder
- 51% prefer reward cards over other options, such a trophies and plaques
Give incentives that feel like perks
- 69% of employees surveyed say reward cards feel like a financial award
- 69% say they feel like a bonus
- 68% say they go beyond regular compensation
Whether you’re refreshing an employee rewards and recognition program or just launching one, make sure you include the right reward strategy to help you achieve better employee engagement. With OmniCard, you can choose to order reward cards through our self-service portal or connect with a suite of APIs.
1Blackhawk Network, Incentives Gift Card State of the Union, conducted by Murphy Research, March 2019.
2Rand Corporation, “Review of Workplace Wellness,” 2012.