Research by financial services company American Express has found that 94 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have gifted rewards to their employees, with 46% choosing to give high street vouchers or gift cards to enjoy a night out.

The survey also uncovered that more than half (51 per cent) of SMEs that took part in the survey cited employee motivation as the main reason for doing so. Creating this positive culture has a direct long-term benefit for smaller firms with a third (34 per cent) saying they have seen enhanced staff retention rates due to passing on rewards accumulated by the business.

Why are small gifts so popular?  It may be as simple as the fact that people appreciate thoughtful, small gifts. As well as high street vouchers and gift cards, cinema tickets, memberships, restaurant gift cards, subscriptions and subscription boxes are all evergreen items. The only key is to tailor the gift to the recipient so they get something they like and know some thought went into it. The other fact is that everyone wants to be appreciated. The research also found that SMEs vary in how they gift rewards among their teams. More than a third (38 per cent) of employers offer rewards specifically to high performing employees, such as ‘staff member of the month’, whereas nearly a quarter (23 per cent) make rewards available to all employees. Also, 21 per cent focus their company’s benefits structure on long-standing members of staff.

Jose Carvalho, senior vice-president at American Express, said: “SMEs are reaping the benefits of actively showing employees appreciation for their hard work. A simple thank you goes a long way and will not only make employees feel good, but will benefit a business in the process.

(American express are no strangers to incentives themselves – recently American Express and Delta Air Lines announced their national #DeltaAmexPerks Dough On-The-Go tour, which gifted Delta SkyMiles® American Express Card Members with complimentary doughnuts from favorite local doughnut shops across the country throughout the summer from a Dough On-The-Go doughnut truck!)

“Our study also shows that a number of SMEs are gifting rewards accrued through spending on a credit card, such as high street vouchers (46 per cent). Rewards are an asset – when going through the process of employing new members of staff, highlight how rewards are available to employees. This will be seen as an added benefit to prospective staff members and may encourage more talent into your business. It’s also about what you say – when you present a reward to an employee, be sure to also personally congratulate them. While the gift will be appreciated, often it’s the personal conversation which lasts longer in people’s memory– identifying the right opportunity to present a reward to employees is important and end-of-year presentations are a great moment to do so. This enables you to highlight what success looks like and the employee will receive recognition from the rest of the company too.”

The only way to tell what your employees really want? Ask! Use your one to one meetings, surveys or other methods to check what the best areas are before implementing a new benefit or perk.

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