How to engage employees with corporate gift cards


Need to know:

  • To engage employees with corporate gift cards, organisations should involve staff in the creation of a scheme.
  • If employees have an input into the parameters of an incentive scheme, they are more likely to show greater appreciation of a reward.
  • Offering employees a choice of reward will also increase engagement with a scheme.

These are uncertain times we live in; five months post-EU referendum and the country is still waiting to see how the Brexit vote might affect the day-to-day cost of living.

Reports of the plummeting pound and trading rows between some suppliers and supermarkets mean discount shopping, daily deals and group-buying offers have never been more popular with the British consumer.

The corporate gift card market both feeds the desire to make the hard-earned pound stretch that bit further, and alternatively, offers the recipient the chance to ‘treat themselves’ while their salary is reserved for the essentials.

This type of reward element is just as important now as it ever has been, says Samantha Gee, director at Verditer Consulting. “More so now, because there’s so much pressure on other things, particularly around pay,” she explains. “All the things that have happened with Brexit and additional costs, such as the living wage and [pensions] auto-enrolment, means that pay increases are no longer a way of increasing the [reward] package. Looking at something such as voluntary benefits is a way of adding value for little cost.”

Employee buy-in

Corporate gift cards are an effective way for an employer to recognise an employee for their work and effort, and, within incentive schemes, as a means of increasing engagement and motivation while ensuring targets are met. However, to make sure employees buy in to the notion behind a scheme, they must appreciate the value of the reward and understand the reasoning behind the scheme implementation. Bill Alexander, chief executive officer at Red Letter Days for Business, says: “We’ve always said the direction has to come from the top, there must be something [the employer] wants to change or improve.

“It’s got to have buy-in from the board. Once the [employer has] done that, and that’s usually the easy bit, the key is to let go of the responsibility and actually include the employees in creating it. What that does is make [the employees] feel it’s their scheme, empowering them.”

Whether it is an incentive, a long-service recognition award or a motivation scheme, once the objective is set, the employer should work with employee groups to communicate exactly what the key goals are. “There may be guidelines and some ideas of what is possible, but, with an incentive scheme, staff should be allowed to come up with the parameters for KPIs [key performance indicators], for example, and also feedback on rewards themselves; what is it they actually want out of it?” says Alexander.

Working on the employee feedback, the employer can then determine what kind of gift card would be most appreciated as a reward in any particular scheme for any specific employee.

Relevant reward

For employees to engage with the scheme and value the reward, the gift card must be relevant and appeal to their lifestyles. The versatility and choice available with a gift card means that it can be a very personal reward. In addition, advances in the delivery systems mean that employers do not have to wait for a gift card to arrive in the post to award their employees, and instead can send a digital code directly via email.

Alex Preece, co-founder of Reward Cloud, says: “[Employers are] able to find out exactly what their employees enjoy spending their money on, and then add that personal touch by sending a John Lewis, an Amazon, or a Debenhams gift card instantly to their inbox. Instead of using cash, which isn’t practical in big businesses, they’re able to actually find out which brands are more appealing to their staff and then use targeted, real-time connections to deliver that personal code, that gift card, to their employees, as and when they need to.”

Choice and personal taste play important roles in engaging employees with a corporate gift card. A workforce can represent a cross-section of the whole population, so rather than present all employees with a gift card that is valid in perhaps one retailer or with a single brand, offering the opportunity to spend their reward in a place or on an experience of their choosing, will create greater engagement among employees.

Some providers offer employees the option to choose a gift from a catalogue, or to receive a gift card of their choice. Mike Morgan, chief executive officer at PeopleValue, says: “Enabling the employee to gift themselves, to have something which they can remember as a recognition of that performance is far more powerful than having £50 in their bank account.”

The message behind the scheme should be reiterated often, says Verditer’s Gee. Promoting the scheme as part of a wider reward offering can also boost engagement. “It comes back to giving enough choice so that [employees] can select what means something to them; engaging them at the start, helping to build it; and offering what’s relevant to them in a way that they want to access that information,” she says.

“If it’s part of a bigger thing with a purpose, for example, wellbeing or making things more affordable, [have] something that glues all of the aspects of the benefits together, perhaps with some interesting branding and [give] it a name so that it has impact.”

Another key factor in engaging employees with a scheme is in the actual recognition for the employee’s efforts or achievements. “I think that the work in terms of the appreciation of the employee is done upfront, in the sense of ‘how does [an employer] recognise an individual within an organisation that’s done a good job, or supported some behaviour that [it is] trying to encourage?’,” says Morgan. “The reward part ultimately is the mechanism, for example, a simple ‘e-thank you’ from the boss or a posting on a social network can be as equally impactive as physically having the reward as well.”

While many employees may have one eye on a daily deals website to see if they can get something cheaper elsewhere, the price that cannot be beaten is the appreciation shown by an employer.

university-of-reading-2University of Reading recognises employees with gift cards and vouchers

The University of Reading awards vouchers or gift case to staff in recognition of a job well done.

Its online recognition scheme, Celebrating Success, was introduced in 2012 as a means for managers to offer employees an immediate reward, as opposed to waiting for the annual pay review or payroll cycle. It was also introduced to increase employees’ awareness of how staff are recognised and rewarded at the university.

A manager will award an employee points, which can then be redeemed through an online catalogue for gift cards or vouchers from a retailer of their choice. The award ranges from £25 to £100.

The scheme rewards employees who demonstrate the university’s professional behaviours. When completing a nomination form, the manager will select which behaviour the individual has demonstrated, for example, achieving results, working together, or embracing and enabling change.

Claire Eckett, HR manager, reward and benefits, says: “Within the system there is the Hall of Fame, so [employees] can see who has received an award and what they’ve done. We hope that will act as a bit of an inspiration.

“Even though it’s not very much, it is a little thank you, and because [employees] are redeeming [points] for vouchers, they can buy something they want.

“With vouchers, the perceived value is greater than the face value. It’s become very popular with staff, it’s achieved a lot of good will on quite a small budget, and people can get what they want.”

Since the scheme was launched, the number of employees receiving an award has increased year-on-year; in the last financial year, 650 of the university’s almost 4,000 employees received an award.