Motivational medicine for healthcare staff

In response to the post-budget announcement that the Department of Health is to save up to £555m by reducing staff sickness absence, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) advised that driving-up the quality of people management across the health services, as well as improving absence management policy and practice, was essential in moving forward.

Budgets, therefore, should include an allocation for employee motivation and engagement spend. Andy Philpott, marketing director at Edenred, explains: “With the healthcare sector feeling the pinch of budget cuts, the challenge for companies is to reduce cost while enhancing employee relations and performance. Employee benefits are needed now more than ever in order to address this issue. They play a vital role in keeping staff engaged with the sector during times of change.”

To this, Iain McMath, managing director at Sodexo Motivation Solutions, adds: “During such turbulent times, management can often lose its focus on employee motivation. If employers simply push their staff to perform better without providing them with the appropriate incentives to do so the effect on productivity and staff morale can be devastating.”

Incentive rewards
A common practice within the private sector for improving staff performance and engagement has been to offer incentive rewards. While reaching sales targets is the obvious goal when setting up private sector incentive programmes, incentive rewards can also be appropriated for all manner of different staff improvement objectives. In the public sector, this could mean rewarding staff for high levels of attendance, for going beyond the call of duty, for offering new ideas that improve services and systems or for reaching long service milestones. They can also be used for rewarding staff across the organisation for their contributions to achieving bigger goals that form part of long-term strategy, such as reducing waiting lists or making significant efficiency savings.

Performance management professionals such as Andy Philpott and Iain McMath, as well as many other members of The UK Gift Card & Voucher Association, are often tasked with advising public sector departments on different types of targets, incentives and rewards that can be used to acknowledge a whole range of objectives. So what are the options?

According to Jock Jordan, group sales director at The Gift Voucher Shop: “An effective reward scheme must be devised with the intention to increase the discretionary effort of the target audience, drive performance improvement, and encourage the recipient to repeat the behaviour that earned them the reward.” He argues that cash rewards simply do not fulfil this: “People are generally unlikely to remember what they spent a cash reward on, while only a very small proportion of employees will actually spend it on something special for themselves. More often than not the money is absorbed into paying for groceries or household bills, which is hardly memorable for the employee.”

Iain McMath continues this argument against using cash incentives: “In the current economic climate, extra cash for bonuses can be hard to find. However, senior managers do have access to a wide range of alternative, cost-effective incentives and flexible benefits to offer to their staff.

Jock Jordan looks to a better solution: “The reality is that for any organisation hoping to encourage certain behaviours, be it public or private sector, they should now look to at least part rewarding a bonus or merit reward with an appropriate non-cash incentive such as gift cards or vouchers.

The UK Gift Card & Voucher Association (UKGCVA) represents all of the key players in this market, with many of them ready to offer specialist advice into employee motivation programmes and explain why vouchers and gift cards work so well as incentive rewards.

Gift cards and vouchers
Mark Towler, head of House of Fraser Business Incentives, says: “Prepaid cards and vouchers have a proven track record when it comes to staff reward, having been used successfully to reduce staff absenteeism and attrition rates, improve loyalty and increase productivity. 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. Gift cards and vouchers provide exceptional choice for the recipient and deliver a cost efficient approach to meeting the aspirations and desires of a diverse audience.”

Choice is clearly an important consideration when trying to appeal to a wide workforce. Andy Philpott continues: “The healthcare sector employs a range of staff at different levels and with different interests. Therefore what motivates one employee will not necessarily motivate another, and companies need to consider this when introducing an incentive scheme. Employee benefits are not a ‘one size fits all’ package but a range of options enabling the incentive to be tailored to suit each employee.”

This element of choice is one of the key attractions for offering Tesco’s incentive rewards scheme, argues Venki Nayani, commercial manager for Tesco Gift Cards. He said: “We have several clients in the health sector as part of Tesco’s corporate incentives business. The ubiquitous nature of the Tesco Gift Card makes it popular as recipients can redeem it against any products found in store and online, including groceries, clothes and electricals. It is important to offer an employee reward scheme with choice and ease of use in order that staff get the most
out of it.”

Paper of plastic?
Having decided that giving recipients choice is important, managers then have to decide whether paper vouchers or gift cards are more suitable for their schemes. The voucher option includes those which can be redeemed at a wide variety of outlets such as The Voucher Shop’s Voucher Cheques, National Garden Gift Vouchers and spa offerings from SpaFinder Europe, or store specific vouchers from leading retailers and leisure outlets. The gift card choice is similarly between store gift cards such as the Tesco Gift Card and those that are widely redeemable, including P&MM’s Spree Card and Edenred’s Compliments range.

On the popularity of paper vouchers, Paul McRae, business development manager at The Voucher Shop, comments: “One of the most popular options being used by NHS Trusts today for both ad-hoc awards and long service awards is the Voucher Cheque. The blank Voucher Cheques can be printed with the Trust’s name or logo and then personalised to individuals for any amount. The cheque can be provided in a stylish envelope, along with a personalised letter or other appropriate message that makes a real impact when it is presented.”

Another provider of paper vouchers, David Butler, general manager of National Garden Gift Vouchers, said: “Rewards and incentives that allow choice, have a perceived value or ‘cash’ appeal such as vouchers, but at the same time encourage physical and holistic activities that could be family inclusive, have become a favourite option. They also provide employers with simple but cost effective wellbeing motivational solutions.”

Gilles Coccoli, managing director, PrePay Solutions, takes the view from the gift card stance: “Gift cards are a simple solution as they are cost efficient and can be easily integrated into a company. The key to the success of gift cards is simple. Prepaid cards offer a cost-effective resource that boasts the same legal framework as a bank account. With little outlay cost per card and the ability to load and re-load funds onto them electronically, the costs – both financial and resource-wise – can be minimal when compared with cheques and direct deposits.”

P&MM Motivation has already taken the prepaid card solution to the NHS with an innovative savings benefit utilising prepaid technology. Teaming up with, P&MM created the NHS Cashback Card using its Spree Card platform. This incentive reward card enables staff to receive cashback on their high street purchases and enjoy saving of between 3.5 per cent and 5 per cent at a range of top UK retailers.

The card works by allowing the cardholder to top it up with funds using a debit card and then when the card is used to make purchases at participating retailers, they receive cashback. Cashback is tracked seamlessly and the savings are added back onto the card.

“We estimate that the average person will save between £200 and £300 per year”, said John Sylvester, of P&MM Motivation. “The card also doubles as a discount card allowing the user to get money off at over 4,500 local retail locations across the UK. This includes health clubs, pubs, taxis, restaurants, take-aways, clothes shops and nightclubs. It’s a great way to incentivise staff without needing to give them a pay rise as the saving earned will make a salary go considerably further.”

So in summary, vouchers and gift cards offer a versatile incentive reward that caters for wide tastes and allows the recipient to choose their own gift. They can also be appropriated to fit any budget and the range of vouchers on the market, from the high street to experiences to gardening, Filmology cinema vouchers, spa days and more, provides more than enough solutions to cater for all tastes. These benefits should offer an attractive solution to health sector HR departments seeking to implement changes in staff attitudes and behaviour over the
coming year.

For more information

For full information on the options available in the UK’s gift card and voucher market, visit:

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