With the festive season approaching many employers are facing the tough decision of how to effectively reward their staff. The days when people loved receiving a carriage clock, an engraved watch, a bottle of bubbly and mince pie are long gone. They have been replaced by the cyber surfing, Facebook tagging, instant messaging and plastic fantastic loving generation.

I was interested to read Derek Irvine’s article titled ‘Recognition & Reward Programme Design – “What We’ve Always Done” v. What Employees Want’, which identified the growing trend in gift card giving within the workplace instead of the traditional and once sought after merchandise. This same article revealed that over 52% of business leaders continue to use merchandise as part of their reward programs, but are they still effective?


The fundamental element to any reward program is the gift itself. It is crucial to understand as an employer what rewards would be most valued by your staff in order to boost morale, productivity and overall company motivation. With organisations jumping onto the gift card/voucher wagon it seems that merchandise has had its day – according to the same article, 39% of business leaders admit that merchant gift cards would be most appreciated by recipients. Only 4% would appreciate merchandise as a reward despite their employer continuing using merchandise in their current reward and recognition programs.

The need to keep us human being’s engaged and motivated is a continual battle that many business leaders face, however, the creation of reloadable, multi-store gift cards and gift vouchers which are redeemable both online and offline have made the reward decision much easier. Research by Stanford Graduate School of Business revealed that even when a small number of gift cards are added to the reward mix in a traditional merchandise program gift cards soon become the most redeemed product, with 90% of employees choosing gift cards as their reward of choice.

Back in 2005 an Incentive Trend report written by D.McCoy MBA and B Mitchell PHD highlighted the change in incentive trends and even then it was revealed that merchandise was slowly phasing out. The development in technology has not only changed the culture of homes and workplaces alike, but it has changed our everyday life. The Daily Mail reported that the average person spends 7 hours a day using various types of technology and in 2010 a staggering £6.8bn was generated through internet shopping. With jaw dropping statistics like these business leaders need to bridge the gap between what an employee really wants as a reward and what they actually receive. Gift cards and vouchers have transformed reward and recognition schemes and are seen as the more cost effective, hassle free and preferential way of rewarding. So what are you waiting for, save Santa the leg work and give your employee’s what they really, really want!