Making work a more rewarding experience

IncentivesIn every industry, motivating employees is essential to ensure optimum productivity. With the public health sector undergoing efficiency savings amounting to billions of pounds, the result is likely to be redundancies and increased absenteeism, extended working hours, pay freezes and fewer career opportunities; all potentially detrimental to staff performance.

So how can the NHS motivate staff? What rewards should it offer? For many years gift cards and vouchers have been the popular choice for staff incentive schemes as they are flexible and not only fit within any budget, but also allow the recipient to select their own gift.

Reducing sick days

With employees facing increased work-related stress, absenteeism is also likely to increase; in fact recent statistics from PricewaterhouseCoopers reveal that UK public sector workers take the highest number of sick days annually.

David Butler, general manager, National Garden Gift Vouchers, observes: “Many organisations are so concerned about employee wellbeing they consider it one of the main issues of the working environment and are investing in ways to support and encourage better health and lifestyles. A mix of individual incentive or motivation programmes, with a high satisfaction level and wellbeing appeal, can result in enhanced engagement and productivity.“

He adds: “We know that rewards and incentives that allow choice, but at the same time encourage physical and holistic activities that could be family inclusive, are increasing in popularity with staff and employers alike.”

Denise Porter, on behalf of Maxchoice International, reports that the company has successfully used gift vouchers in motivation schemes to address issues such as high levels of absenteeism, low productivity, and high staff turnover.

The overall wellbeing of employees should certainly not be overlooked, since a healthy and happy employee is more likely to be a productive employee. Kevin Harrington, managing director of the Global Prepaid Exchange, reveals: “The health sector doesn’t typically boast the biggest salary packages, so prepaid incentives such as gift cards are a great way of incentivising staff as an additional benefit. For example, if you want your employees to eat more healthily you could offer them a card that is restricted to healthy food retailers.”

Counting the benefits
At a time when the cost of living is rising faster than pay, added benefits from prepaid cards are particularly appealing. Gilles Coccoli, managing director of PrePay Solutions, comments: “Receiving a reward or incentive, for example a prepaid card with added value features such as discounts, is not only motivating, but also acts as reassurance that work is valued and appreciated.”

Cassandra Cavanah, executive director, SpaFinder Europe, also sees the benefits of discount incentives: “Another way of rewarding employees is through exclusive discounts – it’s an alternative way to recognise employees by giving them something exclusive at a minimal cost. The rise of instant eVouchers, which can be personalised and sent to the recipient directly, makes coordinating employee rewards much simpler.”

Rewarding loyalty and service is still important as a form of motivation for the future. The Voucher Shop’s head of business development, Kuljit Kaur, explains: “In the workplace of today it is all about recognising staff after shorter periods of employment, offering maximum choice of reward and being cost-effective.”

Prepaid cards and vouchers also suit employers well. John Dove, manager of House of Fraser Business Incentives, pointed out: “Prepaid cards and vouchers have a proven track record when it comes to staff rewards. With discounts available on bulk purchases they’re a great way of getting the best return on your staff reward investment, and are extremely simple to administer.”

Monitoring progress is vital. “Once implemented, ongoing tracking of a programme will help to demonstrate the return on investment of such a scheme. It will also ensure transparency so incentive activity is seen as inclusive, fair and accessible by all – this is of particular importance to a sector which is publicly accountable,” observes Gilles Coccoli.

The value of choice
Convenience and choice are key ingredients when it comes to offering appealing incentive rewards. It is easy to understand why vouchers and gift cards are such a popular solution for employees, with the B2B voucher and gift card market, largely incorporating employee incentive rewards, representing around 45 per cent of the UK’s total £4 billion market.

Martin Cooper, head of national accounts and marketing at Love2reward, says: “Multi-option vouchers and gift cards can be deemed best-suited to the health sector because of the diverse demographic of the intended recipient base, where it may be impossible to reward everyone with a single brand or product alone.”

Agreeing that choice is essential, Cassandra Cavanah states: “The public healthcare sector’s diverse workforce means it would naturally struggle with a one size fits all reward policy. Giving a voucher means that the recipient can choose how and when to use it.”

Important recognition
A personal reward leaves a positive impression upon an employee and is more beneficial than a cash incentive. The Gift Voucher Shop’s managing director UK, Declan Byrne states: “Research and experience clearly indicates that non-cash incentives, such as nationwide multi-store gift cards offering the recipient endless choice, are far more successful than cash as an incentive reward. The trophy value that a non-cash reward offers also reinforces the gift as a symbol of achievement and encourages other employees.”

Kuljit Kaur also confirms the importance and value in public recognition and the creation of ceremony and excitement in a reward scheme.

Memorable incentivising

With a declining budget for holidays, experiences can create lasting memories as a holiday does but at a lower cost. Darren Ziff, head of business development for experience expert Acorne PLC concurs: “Experiences have soared in popularity in recent years as tougher economic times have led to an upturn in numbers choosing to spend leisure time in the UK and the advent of the ‘staycation’.”

Stuart Murray, account manager, Signet Corporate Services, explores the memorable appeal of rewards: “Choosing a memorable gift for a valued employee to mark a significant event can be difficult. An attractive and well presented gift card or voucher can be just as significant to the recipient whilst allowing the individual to choose something that they truly want and which they will treasure in years to come.”

It is clear from these observations that motivation schemes can address a wide range of issues facing NHS managers and that gift cards and vouchers can play a valuable role in their success. L E

Written by Andrew Johnson, director-general of the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association

UK Gift Card & Voucher Association was established as a trade body in 1991 to represent the key players in the £4 billion gift vouchers, cards and stored value solutions market. It provides an information and reference point for both voucher and gift card suppliers and customers, and is at the forefront of the issues affecting the industry.

Its main objective is to raise the profile and use of vouchers and gift cards within the UK, promoting the industry to consumers, businesses, government and other interested parties.

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