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Are Employee Rewards Benefits or Bonuses?

employee rewards
A new study from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association indicates that employee engagement is considered a top strategic priority for 2016 (35.6% of respondents indicated this as number 1).

So how do we get employees engaged? Employee rewards.

Employee rewards are a critical part of total employee compensation, and also play an important role in boosting employee engagement rates. But are employee rewards considered a bonus or formal employee benefit? U.K. based publication, The HR Director, has an innovative stance on how employee rewards should be viewed, evaluated and posed to employees.

Traditionally, rewards have been viewed as bonuses. They have been viewed as something that require employees to exhibit continued exceptional behavior, not something that employees come to expect from their employer. Initial reward programs began with old-fashioned recognition for things like anniversary of hire, or the giving of crystal plaques and watches.

Programs have since progressed to offering employee rewards that come in a variety of forms and are given like a benefit, which by definition is something that employers owe employees as a part of their employment. Smaller and timelier rewards can now come in the form of cash, as an addition to the employee’s base pay, gift cards or extra vacation time. So as employee rewards evolve, should they become a benefit, as they have been more recently with the way healthcare and basic life insurance is? Is employee recognition that important?

The HR Director is suggesting that in terms of pay structure employers should consider rewards an inextricable part of employee compensation. So much so that they are budgeted as benefits, and included in total employee compensation. To structure pay in this way would essentially guarantee employees receive rewards. Instead of being an added income, rewards would become a given, with low performing employees getting reductions in income, rather than high performing employees getting added incentives.

So is that going back to a “stick” method of rewards, rather than using the proven “carrot” method?

While employee recognition and employee engagement are critically important to organization production and employee satisfaction, personally, I’m not convinced that rewards shouldn’t stay a value add, separate from the benefits given to all employees. Thoughts? Leave us a comment?

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Pro-tips for Outsourcing an Incentive Program

outsourcing an incentive program

A new study from the Incentive Research FoundationEngaging Outside Program Support for Incentive and Recognition Programs, is full of ideas on how to use outside firms to optimize your incentive programs this year. There are a number of ways to go about outsourcing an incentive program, from working with gift card providers as a cost effective reward solution, to having your program fully administered by an outside firm.

Here are a few unique ways to outsource efforts, while keeping costs low and increasing your program(s) success rates:

Full Service Providers vs. Gift Card Providers

outside program supportEnd-users employ a variety of providers, from sales programs (green), to channel programs (yellow) and employee programs (red). We will focus on employee programs in this post.

A great way to be effective without breaking your budget is to employee a gift card only provider, without employing a full service program administrator.

75% of survey respondents employ gift card only providers for employee programs

75% of survey respondents employ gift card only providers for employee programs, which offer a variety of gift card options and often include a discount for bulk orders. These providers would help your HR team administer the program, without handling all of the logistical aspects of the program. Only 25% of respondents to the IRF survey utilized a full service provider for employee programs. The likely reason? The integration period and cost is significantly less with a gift card only provider while still offering the variety and impact that your employee program needs.

Find the right incentive

Ordering Online vs. Having an Account Representative

According to the 2015 Global Consumer Online Shopping Expectations report from DYN, more than 90% of consumers surveyed across 11 countries said they
make at least 25% of their purchases online. Whether it’s clothing or office supplies (or even admittedly dog food!) it’s nice to do things on your own time and on your own terms. However, when it comes to incentives for your program, it might be beneficial to order through an account manager, as 65% of the IRF respondents indicated they do. Why? Because when using outside help, the human element can save your bottom line. Account reps can help you hit discount amounts that you might not know exist. They can give you preferential pricing, or free shipping. The human element may take a few more minutes to process but it may save you money in the long run.

Do you have more pro tips? Leave us a comment and you could see it in a future blog.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

3 Tips to Make Incentives Work More Efficiently

make incentives work

Employee incentives are a proven way to motivate employees, increase productivity and retention, as well as align your organizational goals with employee goals. However, do you know how efficient your incentive program is? It may be working, but not as well as it could. With a fresh new year, now is a great time to take stock of your employee incentive program and find ways to make incentives work better.

Roy Saunderson shared 10 tips with Incentive Magazine on how to make incentives work better, here are our top 3 tips:

  1. Align incentivized behaviors with organizational goals: Aligning employee behavior with organizational goals seems like a no-brainer, but it can be a challenge. Using incentives to steer employee attitude and behavior is a strategy that helps align employees and management, increasing employee satisfaction and retention. We wrote more about the role value-based rewards play in program outcomes a few months ago.
  2. Create a personal experience around receiving incentives: Not all employees want to receive incentives the same way. Some employees may want public recognition while others may cringe at the idea of it, opting for a more private recognition. Some may prefer merchandise and others could place more value on a gift card to select their reward on their own time. Making this experience special, memorable and unique for the individual is the best way to ensure that your incentive program is effective.
  3. Never let incentives take over for human motivation: This is an important one, and we in the incentive space don’t address it often enough. Incentives cannot take the place of that “fire in the belly” human motivation. The real tip here? Don’t over incent your employees. Don’t dangle so many carrots in front of them that they won’t move without one. Find the balance, and make it work for you this year.

Find the right incentive
What are the most efficient employee incentives in your office? Leave us a comment!

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Incentives Improve Workplace Performance

improve workplace performanceGenesis Associates, a British-based recruiting firm focusing in the sales, engineering, and creative sectors, recently surveyed employees to try to determine exactly how important incentives were in the workplace. Their findings were astounding. 85% of responding workers indicated that they do their best work when an incentive is involved. That’s not just better work, or they work harder, that is their best. Don’t you want their best all the time? This survey adds to the proof that incentives are no longer an option but a necessity to maintaining a positive work environment. Of those surveyed, 73% indicated that their work atmosphere was good or very good during an incentive period.

So what do you give employees to properly incentivize them? The survey also went into the incentive itself. They saw:

  • 40% of employees wanted money
  • 29% wanted a free vacation
  • 23% wanted more paid time off

So how do you decide? Well, for one, keep the rewards consistent with your inventive program. If you give individual rewards (and depending on our audience)money, travel or PTO may be good options (although we prefer gift cards to cash). However, the British survey also indicated that 71% of respondents were also looking for team-based incentives. The “succeed together, fail together” motto drives employees to not only work hard but to work together to ensure organizational success as well as personal success. Team incentives can also help to engage the un-engageable, when feeling the encouragement of a group many tend to rise to the occasion because they don’t want to be the one to let their team down.

Incentives used to consist of a plaque for a big work anniversary or a staff lunch around the holidays. Now, incentives are a critical part of employee compensation and really need to be treated as such. Make the investment in your employees and maximize productivity at your organization through individual or team employee incentives.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Survey Says Non-Cash Incentives are the Answer

non-cash incentives

We’ve all received cash bonuses. It’s the biggest staple of employee rewards and incentives, but should it be? The Incentive Marketing Association and the Incentive Research Foundation have partnered once again to take a closer look at the rewards and incentives that make the biggest impact in your programs. Their Participant Survey, surveying 452 employees with 80 in-depth questions, helped prove a point that GiftCard Partners has emphasized for a long time: that cash is NOT king when it comes to employee reward programs. The Participant Survey showed incredible statistics about employees’ propensity to choose non-cash incentives when presented with a choice.

A few key findings included:

  • 65% of employees in a small reward scenario take non-cash incentives
  • 80% of employees in a large reward scenario take non-cash incentives
  • 40% of the total award experience is based on presentation while 60% is the actual award

Employees focus on professional development

The study went on to explain that the biggest motivation opportunity within reward programs is professional development. This is particularly interesting and important because of the consistency with which employees answered this question. Whether they were millennials or boomers, men or women, everyone placed a high value on professional development. One-third of respondents valued professional development as their optimal total rewards experience.

Getting flexible with your reward options

The second major industry myth the Participant Survey debunked was the notion that not only do employers need to tailor their employee rewards away from cash incentives but they also need to find some magical mix of non-cash incentives and rewards. Combining different kinds of rewards, like gift cards, professional development, additional time off or executive access is a great way for employers to offer their employees something they will value. However, there is no set formula for this combination. Every employee is different. Of those responding, 99% said they would prefer a unique scenario for their preferred total award experience. The lesson to learn here? Create options and flexibility but allow employees to take their unique mix and make it a reality.

How will you create that total reward experience mix in 2016?

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Employee Recognition Programs Reflect Company Values

Employee Recognition Programs

Last year at this time employers were stressed out about employee engagement. Now the focus is on employee retention and turnover.

The solution for both?

Employee recognition programs that reflect and embody company values. Standard employee recognition programs aren’t effective if they don’t reflect the communicated organizational values.

A new study from the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, compared employee recognition programs that are closely aligned to an organization’s company values, with employee recognition programs that are not, or could seem more “random” in distribution. Here are some of the critical results you need to know to ensure your employee recognition program’s success.

In value-based employee recognition programs, organizations observed:

  • Increased employee happiness: 86% vs. 70%
  • Added a human element to work: 85% vs. 70%
  • Improved peer-to-peer professional relationships: 84% vs. 66%
  • Helped reinforce corporate values in its employees: 88% vs. 42%

When employees can be recognized for exhibited behaviors that exemplify organizational values they are apt to take the values more seriously. One other key point for value-based employee recognition programs: peer-to-peer recognition. 74% of surveyed companies implemented a policy of peer-to-peer recognition at any and all levels. This is key because it allows good behavior to be called out and rewarded across the organization. Whether the office manager or a senior executive is encompassing company values, an employee recognition program should be enabled.

What are the best practices for your employee recognition programs?  The Young Entrepreneurs Council, which consists of some of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs, contributed to these 8 Best Practices for Your Employee Recognition Programs.  One of the valuable tips: Don’t Overthink it!

“We created a really awesome, but elaborate point system, only to discover that it was too much for people to keep track of and actually deterred them from doing their job. The system that’s used to track employees for recognition is far less important than just having something in place to recognize those who have done well. People love to be recognized in front of their peers.”

— ANDERSON SCHOENROCK of ScanDigital

Do you have a value-based reward program? If so, do you allow peers to recognize each other across seniority levels? Tell us more about your value-based employee recognition programs in the comments.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Time for Employee Recognition

employee-recognition
According to Incentive Magazine, the number one reason employers and managers give for not practicing employee recognition is time. They don’t have time, they can’t find the right time, it’s not effective if you do it too much or too little. There are a million reasons. But the reality is, employee recognition shouldn’t take a lot of time, and with some planning and scheduling employee recognition can extend the time employees remain loyal to their organization.

1). Timely Employee Recognition- If an employee does something worth recognizing, make sure you execute on employee recognition in a timely manner. If you wait too long the recognition becomes stale and ineffective. Ensure ROI and trophy value for rewards by recognizing employees as soon as possible.

2). Doesn’t Need to Take A Lot of Time- There’s a misconception in the market that employee recognition is time consuming. However, if you have a regular recognition program, and rewards on site, recognition only needs to take a few minutes. Whether it’s public or private employee recognition, it doesn’t need to be a time suck.

3). Deliberate Frequency- Make employee recognition programmatic. That way employee expectations around recognition and rewards are set and can be met and/or exceeded. From a time perspective, deliberate recognition builds recognition into your calendar, rather than being disruptive.

Making time for employee recognition will ensure ROI into any program that is approved and endorsed by management.

 


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Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Employee Rewards They Really Want

employee-rewards

Ever wondered what employee rewards your staff really want? While you know they may appreciate the sentiment of the reward, and even find the rewards fun, have you ever wondered, if they could pick anything, what the general employee response would be? In a recent study done by The Voucher Shop these hard-to-come-by desires are revealed. Even though these are results from across the pond, there’s a lot to be gleaned applicable for American employees and households as well.

Here are the top categories employees want to see in rewards from their employers:

  • Food and grocery shopping vouchers (47.8%)
  • Department store vouchers (14.9%)
  • Holiday vouchers (12.4%)
  • Leisure or family day out vouchers (9.2%)
  • Eating out (8.7%)
  • Clothing vouchers (5.8%)
  • Do-it-yourself or home improvement voucher (0.8%)

These results reveal a lot about what employees want and need. Rewards should provide trophy value for employees and allow them to afford things they won’t necessarily deem a necessity. The fact that things like groceries, department stores and holiday rewards top this list shows the continued financial strain on working families.

On one hand, it’s great that added rewards can help fill gaps in employees’ financial needs but on the other hand, employers need to aim to balance giving rewards with the trophy value they aim to provide. In either case, this study sheds light on what employees really want in rewards and will help guide employers to providing rewards that will have the maximum impact on their workforce.


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Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Why Employers Often Fail at Employee Recognition

employee recognitionA recent survey by OfficeTeam revealed that 89% of employers think they are doing a good job with employee recognition for outstanding efforts at work. That would be great, except only 70% of employees tend to agree with that statement. The divide between employee and employer opinions is significant. If employees don’t have confidence or agree that their employers are doing well recognizing their efforts, then employers get no return on what is often a significant investment.

There are many reasons why employers can fail at delivering employee recognition. Sometimes it’s a lack of effort, communication or application of a program. Here are three reasons we find most common- and how to overcome them.

  1. No Purpose: If your employee recognition program is too ad-hoc it can seem like there is no clear purpose or direction. Before handing out rewards or recognizing employees publicly, the leader/administrator of the program should be able to set out specific purposes and goals of the program. This will provide guidance and direction to keep the program focused and clearly laid out for employees.
  2. No Feedback: Every employee recognition program starts with “employee.” Don’t lose sight of that. Solicit feedback from employees on where, when, how and why they want to be recognized. Keep it meaningful not just for your management team but for the people you aim to acknowledge.
  3. No Learning: Great employers help their employees grow. Employee recognition should be about learning. Employees should be recognized for both learning and personal growth, just as much as working hard to further company goals.

A lot of factors can come into play when an employee recognition program isn’t successful. But the important thing is how companies and employers understand and meet those challenges in order to overcome them. Here are more examples and solutions in Incentive Magazine’s article, Top 10 Reasons Why Companies Fail at Employer Recognition.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Financial Wellness Paired With Physical Wellness

Financial Wellness

With 80% of U.S. and Puerto Rican workers under moderate or high levels of financial stress, employers are looking beyond physical wellness programs and adding a financial wellness component to employee benefits. Financial wellness programs often provide financial advice and guidance to employees with the aim to reduce financial stress and increase workplace productivity.

According to an Aon Hewitt survey, 76% of employers were interested in financial wellness initiatives in 2013, and looking to expand their efforts by 2014. Companies also observe that the more financially stressed an employee is, the more sick time they take, disrupting work flow and workplace momentum.

At Meredith Corp. employees are offered a financial wellness questionnaire and can take educational courses and other financial wellness actions to gain access to discounted healthcare options and other financial perks. Meredith is recording big results on their financial wellness program too.

  • 95% of Meredith employees fill out the initial survey
  • 80% take at least one educational class
  • 88% of those who report less money stress use no sick time

The greater continuity in the workplace is strengthening Meredith’s workforce and proving that employees don’t need to make more money to relieve financial stressors. Employer based financial literacy and aptitude resources can sometimes be enough to set employees on the right financial track. This also proves that financial wellness may be equally critical to physical wellness in terms of employer rewards.

Are you offering financial wellness incentives to employees? Tell us about them in the comments.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.