As every gift-giver knows, it’s the thought that counts – provided you get it right. Anyone who’s agonised over Christmas or birthdays knows the importance, and challenge, of finding the right present.


Choosing workplace incentives is just as important, and it’s perhaps even harder to choose well. Few employers claim to know their staff as well as their family or friends. Fewer still, if they did, would find they all shared similar tastes.


By 2020 half the workforce will be millennials – a generation born in the 1980s and ’90s with very different preferences to their parents. Our research shows 84% of millennial employees value rewards providing experiences they can share with others most highly. Baby boomers, who make up most of the rest of the workforce, tend to prefer traditional, physical gifts


That is, of course, the principal benefit of prepaid cards: They let businesses reward staff effectively, whatever their particular taste. Cards can be used for nights out, meals or trips to store up memories for millennials, while others might prefer gifts and shopping trips.


Some prepaid cards can be used anywhere that accepts Visa, which can make them as flexible as cash, whilst retaining the feel good factor on receipt by the recipient and with the added bonus of being easier to administer. With the company’s branding on them, they also reinforce loyalty. As such, short of shopping for employees individually, prepaid cards are the closest a business can get to providing a unique, suitable reward for each recipient.


Choice and tracking


A retail or multi-store gift card can also be an ideal solution, especially for businesses with small or homogenous workforces. Employers can use this type of reward to reinforce brand values and loyalty by partnering with retailers that staff appreciate, while retaining the flexibility for them to choose their own reward. For other businesses, free fuel cards or cashback cards can have wide, general appeal.


That doesn’t mean there’s no value in knowing your staff, though.  Businesses that understand their staff will get the best value from their spending on incentives. Gaining that knowledge, however, is not always easy, and is actually another benefit that prepaid cards can bring. These cards are not only easy for companies to administer, but also easy to track, which means they can provide a wealth of information for businesses to use.


The digital revolution has created even more benefits for businesses using gift cards to reward and motivate their staff. For example, many businesses now offer dedicated online portals for their rewards, which enable employees to view and redeem gift cards or coupons online. With prepaid cards, these portals also provide a useful way for employees to monitor the card balance, spend their rewards, and see points and bonuses such as cash back accumulate.


Web-based solutions like these make managing rewards much easier. For a start, businesses don’t need to issue a new card for each new reward; they can just add points or another type of credit to the employee’s balance and then send an alert to let them know. At the same time, businesses can take advantage of the insights that an online system can provide by tracking how, when and potentially even where cards are being used. This way, businesses don’t need to wonder whether their employees are getting value from their rewards, as they can see exactly if and how they are being used – and then adjust their programmes as necessary.


As people work longer and retire later at one end of the spectrum, and a new generation joins and comes to dominate the workforce at the other, finding rewards for everyone is only going to get more challenging. However, if businesses harness both the flexibility and insights that modern incentives can provide, they will find that they can put something in place to meet everyone’s tastes.

Author: Iain Thomson, Director of Incentive & Recognition at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services

More Incentive and Motivation News:

Take a look at other categories across our site to find out more about employee engagement, rewards and benefits. Employee Engagement | Employee Benefits | Employee Reward and Recognition | New Launches | Interviews and Case Studies | Marketing and Loyalty

Don’t forget we’re social too! Find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.