Trends in employee incentives in 2017

Bill Alexander, CEO, Red Letter Days For Business

According to a study carried out by Future Workplace, 47% of HR professionals say that they are aiming to focus more on employee rewards in 2017. A savvy decision, considering that employee engagement and retention are high on the list of priorities for most businesses. But what kind of incentives should HR directors be considering? And what will really appeal to the workforce of 2017?

According to Bill Alexander, CEO Red Letter Days For Business: “There have been five key areas which have driven change in the way employees view recognition and reward in the latter half of the decade.”

Alexander highlights that businesses should be looking for more personal, meaningful rewards, as the focus shifts away from cash and the occasional bottle of wine, towards a demand for more authentic, personal and meaningful rewards that focus on well-being, work-life balance, charitable and environmental health and unique one-off experiences that create memories which cannot be replicated.

Authentic bespoke experiences
The success of ventures such as Secret Cinema, which offers customers exclusive, immersive cinema experiences, have shown that there is a real hunger for unique experiences where they can feel that they are part of an elusive club. And the same can be said for reward experiences. It is time to move away from the mundane and the ordinary and move towards specialised experiences which have been put together creatively, with your particular employees in mind. Consider what makes your employees stand out from others, are they young and fashion conscious, or are they discerning focused on the finer details? Use this information to invest in unique and authentic experiences, tailor-made just for them, something that they could not experience anywhere else and which will bring them together over a shared sense of excitement.

Social responsibility
Several studies have shown a direct link between social responsibility and employee engagement, after all workers are bound to be more incentivised to work hard for a company which they can feel proud of. But what does this mean for rewards and incentives? Again, creativity and communication are key.  While it’s important for your employees to see the organisation demonstrating its commitment, it’s even more important to encourage them to participate and experience the commitment first hand. Why not give your staff the opportunity to take paid leave to conduct a charitable initiative your organisation supports – it can be as ambitious as sending a team to help build a home in impoverished areas or as simple as incentivising employees to reduce energy consumption. Once you begin to think of ways to tie incentives to social responsibility the possibilities will grow and grow.

Wellness programmes
Not only are employees becoming more aware of the impact that their employer has on the wider community, but they also are keenly aware of the impact that work has on their health and wellbeing and therefore it pays to incentivise and invest in wellbeing programmes. Not only will your employees be motivated by the prospect of embracing wellbeing, but the beauty is it doesn’t need to be solely focused on medical benefits. The gift of a massages, or a spa day or the opportunity for your staff to embrace a family day activity or experience will mean as a business you will reap the benefits of having healthier workers who report lower stress levels and take fewer sick days. A win-win situation all round.

Incentive travel
Incentive travel as a reward is on the increase, it’s a proven and highly attractive reward which is often used to encourage employees or channel partners to boost sales and drive targets. When incorporated into a targeted and well executed rewards programme, incentive travel is a powerful tool to encourage staff to achieve desired outcomes. This is because travel has a universal appeal. Any holiday is a highly desirable reward, which has longevity both in the lead up to and anticipation of the holiday, through to the memories created from the experience itself. I think we will see an increase in the number of organisations opting incentive travel over cash bonuses in 2017, simply because cash is easily spent and often the intent behind the reward is forgotten as soon as the money is gone. For organisations wanting to introduce travel incentives, but concerned about environmental impact and costs its key to remember that, in the same vein, as social responsibility, incentive travel doesn’t always need to be ostentatious. The trend towards more environmentally and socially aware travel choices can easily be embraced. For example, you may want to consider taking your employees on a simple, low-key “glamping” style trip, where they can get back to basics and enjoy taking a break from the corporate world by going off-grid for a few days.

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Luxury products
Today’s consumers, and therefore your employees, are more discerning than ever before and trends are showing a move away from disposable, cheap and cheerful buys and towards timeless quality which will last. A pulse study carried out by The Incentive Research Foundation this year reported that 31% of employees are interested in electronics as rewards, whilst 28% would be interested in luggage and 23% in receiving a good quality watch. Investing in luxury will hallmark you as an employer who cares about their employees and about others, as luxury products tend to focus on craftsmanship, ethically produced materials and longevity.

The trends in incentives look set to offer exciting and innovative ways to reward employees. I think 2017 will be the year that employers seek more creative ways to show recognition and reward their employees by finding fresh and inventive ways to increase employee engagement.