3 Tips to Engage Remote Employees

engage remote employees

Technology has made working from home a more common occurrence than ever before. Gallup’s 2015 annual Work and Education poll showed that 37 percent of U.S. workers indicated they have worked from home, up almost 30 percent since 1995. So how are you going to engage so many remote employees this year? With an increased number of companies providing flexible schedules and the ability for many employees to work remotely at least part of the time, it is important to have a plan to motivate, inform engage remote employees to ensure success.

  1. Mutual understanding: Remote employees and their managers need to work extra hard to safeguard that responsibilities, tasks, due dates are taken seriously and continuously met. Since these employees and their managers don’t have the chance encounters in the hallway or in the 5 minutes after a meeting ends, it’s important to find alternative ways to have those off-hand check-ins. Managers also need to make themselves easily available for employees to ask questions more often than just in planned meetings. It can be as simple as more emails or short phone calls, but it could make the difference between engagement and employee failure.
  2. Trust, trust, trust: This may seem like a given but trust is the most important part of having a remote workforce and engaging those employees. You can’t see them, you don’t know that they are at their desks all day and likewise, they may not know their manager cares about the extra hours they put in or their above and beyond performances on a certain project. Differences in time zone and working hours can compound this challenge. Additionally, tone can often get lost in our connected world, so doing a little extra to make sure your employees know you trust them to get their work done and to give their all to projects could be the difference between having an engaged, empowered remote group and having to look for a new team.
  3. Recognition and reinforcement: Since communication structures are often different for remote teams, recognizing exceptional behavior and reinforcing it among peers is critical. Mike Ryan, Senior Vice President at Madison Performance Group notes that creating a “democratic” or peer-to-peer recognition strategy can be even more engaging. It empowers employees not only to work hard, but to look out for others’ exceptional behavior. Giving employees the power to call each other’s hard work out is empowering and engaging all on its own. It can be a unique engagement program component that brings a remote team together. Adding rewards to this type of program can also show that an employer is willing to invest not only time and effort but money into this type of recognition and engagement as well.

Remote workforces can enable your team to scout the best talent and create work schedules and arrangements that work for both managers and employees. However, these teams can grow distant and it can be difficult for executives and managers to engage employees who aren’t in the office, or aren’t in the office all of the time. Use recognition, trust, and clear communication to engage remote employees.

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 Travel Rewards Gain Popularity and Value

employee travel rewardsEmployee travel rewards are common and have been since the days of service crystals and 5- year pins. But the way they are being applied in today’s employee reward environment is changing and evolving. Here are three ways employee travel rewards are changing and can be used to maximize effectiveness.

  1. Technology Extends Reach: Technology has changed every aspect of our lives, and employee rewards are no exception. Technology helps extend the reach of employee reward programs, allowing employees to accrue more points or credits towards rewards, as well as allowing employers to engage employees in different ways, like through gamification. According to the latest IRF 2016 Trends in Incentive Travel, Rewards, and Recognition study, over 30% of employers use gaming techniques in their employee reward and recognition programs. Technology also allows employers to build their programs to include large incentives like travel and to measure them to assure employees are earning the larger more expensive rewards.
  2. Gift Card Programs Show Confidence: The prevalence of gift card programs shows confidence in the economy, in investment in employee incentive programs, and confidence that larger rewards such as employee travel rewards can pay off. 38% of the responding employers to the 2016 IRF study plan to increase their rewards budgets in 2016, leaving options for larger incentive goals like employee travel rewards. So while gift cards are smaller spot rewards, they also act as indicators for the larger employee incentive and reward climate.
  3. Non-Cash is Playing a New Role: “Three quarters of all U.S. businesses leverage non-cash rewards and recognition to motivate and engage their workforce on some level, spending over $77 billion annually,” according to the IRF study. But in order for the non-cash reward to be most effective, it must be delivered appropriately. Using non-cash rewards for non-core job responsibilities maximizes their effectiveness and your program’s efficiency. Non-core job responsibilities can include tasks and projects that employees raise their hands to get involved in.

The value of employee incentive programs is rising and employee travel rewards are gaining popularity in the face of increasing incentive value, the continued rise of non-cash rewards, and technology extending the reach of rewards and the ability to track employee efforts. How are you using travel rewards in your company?

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.

Don’t Screw Up Employee Recognition

Employee recognition programDone right, an employee recognition program can promote loyalty, boost motivation, and increase productivity. But a lot of employee recognition programs get it wrong. We know this because the programs aren’t successful, and while money is being put into programs year after year, the end goal isn’t met. So how do you avoid investing in a program that fails?

FastCompany identifies 3 of the most common screw-ups:

  1. Know that employees (mostly) do it for the rewards. Employees get involved with employee recognition programs because of the rewards. Don’t forget that. So many employers start to “drink their own Kool-Aid” and get so focused on loyalty and productivity that they forget that employees are in it for the extra cash or time off. Remember that rewards are the heart of your program.
  2. Assuming you know how to motivate everyone. Employers spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how to motivate employees. What to do and how to do it seems to elude a lot of employees. The biggest mistake employers’ make is assuming the same thing motivates all employees. Different people value different things by way of employee recognition. Some may want money, some time-off, some tickets to a game or a donation to their favorite charity. Ask your people what they want; it’s the easiest way to deliver something of value.
  3. Recognition doesn’t have to come from the top. Gone are the days of executives in their ivory towers. We work in a time of collaboration and open floor plans. Make sure you treat your employee recognition program the same way. Recognition should be able to come from anyone in the organization, including peers and subordinates. Being innovative and catching employees off guard will guarantee that you not only “don’t screw it up” but also that your program grows roots in your organization and thrives.
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 Cash Rewards Don’t Motivate

cash rewards

We talked before about the shift in reward and incentive programs. Employers must now take into account that each workplace is usually comprised of 3 different generations, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Each of these generations defines a “valuable reward” in different ways. This shift in rewarding now involves turning away from the idea of general cash rewards and taking a more personalized approach to the individuals you are trying to motivate or reward.

Whether the program is designed to motivate behavioral change, “above and beyond” performances, or engagement, the one tool that remains consistent throughout is the reward or incentive. It’s an important aspect of any program and should be regarded as such when designing your program.

In the past (and many times still today) the preferred option of motivating was offering cash rewards. It’s a common notion that the more money an individual receives at work, the happier and more motivated they will be. But new research finds big cash incentives are more distracting than motivating, and the relationship between motivation and performance is more complex.


Find the right reward


Incentive Magazine article, 3 Reasons Why Cash Incentives Don’t Motivate, points to two separate studies supporting the idea that cash incentives don’t link to motivation and workplace happiness. One study from Tim Judge of the University of Florida concluded that even if companies let their employees set their own salaries, they still wouldn’t enjoy the job more.

The second study, from Gallup, interviewed 1.4 million people at every pay level, across every industry, around the world and found that job satisfaction had little to do with money. The article points to three important reasons why cash incentives don’t motivate.

Reasons not to use cash rewards

  1. At the end of the day, it’s just considered income. We all have expenses and every dollar brought in typically goes to one of those expenses. So the lasting effect of the reward is fleeting. Which brings us to,
  2. Cash has no “trophy value.” When you’ve earned a reward it’s typical to be proud of it, maybe even show it off a bit. But it’s not usually in good taste to start passing around your paycheck to show off that reward. Getting that reward is something to celebrate and enjoy.
  3. Cash Programs Usually Lack Goals. Think of it this way. If you’re running in a race but have no clue where the finish line is, who’s to say you’ve actually won at the end…no matter how fast you run. Clear goals allow employees to understand where they’re going, how far they are and what they’ve accomplished once they got there.

The best thing an employer can do is to take a close look at how effective their program is. What is the overall goal of the program, are your employees clear on it, and what rewards have the greatest impact on your program participants? While money is important, yes, it isn’t everything.


So you’re on the same page, but if not cash rewards then what tools should you be utilizing to effectively motivate and engage your workforce for long-term success? Check out our recent post, Incentives and Rewards in 2016: The role they play in program success, to learn more about how and what rewards and incentives are being used.

Stay up-to-date with the latest trends in reward and recognition and subscribe to the blog today!


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Lauren is the Marketing Specialist here at GiftCard Partners. She enjoys all things marketing and design related. Learning about the newest trends and technologies in the b2b gift card world and seeing how we can use them to develop the best experience for our audience and reader base is our goal.

3 Employee Engagement Trends to Consider in 2016

employee engagement trends

Employee engagement remains a critical part of HR programs and a big challenge going further into 2016. While every expert is discussing engagement trends, here are three trends to help you get started in boosting your employee engagement.

Employee engagement trends

  1. Engagement and culture- Employee engagement remains a top concern for both employers and HR going into 2016, and it’s a trend that’s not going away. According to a new Deloitte survey, 87% of organizations indicated that employee engagement and culture are a top challenge, with 50% indicating that this challenge is “very important” to address this year. Engagement is a catalyst and a precedent-setter for your organizational culture. Employee engagement and culture set standards for how your employees view their time at work and their relationship with their employer.
  1. Professional development will link to turnover- Professional development has become something employees expect. Without opportunities to learn and grow within the organization, employees will look for employment elsewhere. Employee engagement can hinge on ensuring that employees have room for this growth within their current position. It allows employees to feel comfortable staying put in their current organization, rather than looking for other employment.
  1. Peer-to-peer recognition will grow- Peer recognition has become an important component of employee engagement. Not only does it engage employees in their own fate, it also creates a sense of equal community and breaks down traditional vertical hierarchy at the office. Involving employees in each other’s success allows teams and individuals to succeed and fail together.

For thirteen more employee engagement trends check out this article from CIO Magazine.

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.

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.