Choose the right voucher scheme for your staff

There are voucher schemes that cover everything from holidays in the sun to zoo-keeping days. But which would be right for your employees?

Andrew Johnson, director of the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, says that although some schemes can seem glamorous and seductive, it’s important that employees do actually make use of the discounts offered.

“Flexibility is important,” he says. “A holiday in New York may sound glamorous, but if your employees have families, they may prefer to spend the vouchers on a camping holiday.

“You should also consider your employees’ behaviour patterns. If they do all their weekly shopping at Asda, maybe that would be a voucher scheme that suits them.

“The vouchers should also be easy to spend. A voucher to a top West End show won’t be much use if your employees are based in Swindon.”

The key thing, says Johnson, is to find out “what turns your workers on”, be it travel, holiday, or restaurant vouchers.

And this means doing some research.

A poll of HR managers in May 2010 by The Voucher Shop found that 53% of employers consult with their staff on which retail vouchers they would like.

“Consulting with employees on which vouchers they would like to receive is a key factor in ensuring that an incentive or reward scheme is as effective as possible,” says Paul McRae, a business development manager at marketing firm P&MM.

“Employers should not make a decision on voucher types based on their own perspective as the preferences of the target audience may differ markedly from what they assume will appeal.”

Pros and cons of single and multi-outlet schemes

One choice employers will have to make is whether to go with a single or multi-outlet voucher scheme.

According to Martin Cooper, sales and marketing manager at Love2reward, “The advantage with a multi-outlet scheme is that you an please more of the people more of the time.

“With a single retailer scheme, you are making a judgment call on behalf of your workforce; they may not like the shop you pick.”

“We know that the teams appreciate the diversity of the rewards available as feedback tells us that people have chosen vouchers to spend on clothes, spa treatments and entertainment at places like the Hard Rock Cafe.”

However, with a multi-outlet scheme, there is less alignment between the employer and a specific brand.

Raegan Matthews, business incentives manager at House of Fraser, says that her clients like the idea of giving their employees access to “aspirational designer brands” at the retailer’s 61 nationwide stores, and online.

“When they have a voucher aligned to a specific brand, the employee is more likely to remember what they buy,” she says.

Also popular among the single-outlet providers are the big supermarkets, with Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda and Waitrose all offering voucher schemes.

For employers concerned about what the vouchers might be spent on, Sainsburys also offers food vouchers so that alcohol or cigarettes can be excluded from the scheme.

Depending on the nature of the motivation scheme, a more imaginative reward might be worth considering. Sales incentive programmes have often looked towards “experience” providers.

Virgin Experience Days, part of motivation service group Acorne, offers flying lessons, Formula One driving and deep sea fishing for “adrenaline” junkies, or spa weekends and weekend city breaks at the other extreme. It has recently set up a “Keeper for the Day” experience with London Zoo.

Ethical schemes

If brand alignment is considered particularly important, some employers may like the idea of a more ethical voucher scheme. Edenred, formerly Accor, recently launched Compliments Green, a partnership with eco-friendly retailer Green Rewards.

The scheme works on a points basis and provides employees with e-vouchers that can be redeemed online at Green Rewards, from an 800-strong portfolio of ethical products including clothing, experiences, organic wine, scooters and garden hammocks.

“Almost half of all job seekers say they are more likely to join or stay with a company that addresses social issues and 23% of those who think their organisation is environmentally aware have an increasing sense of motivation,” says Derrick Hardman, managing director of Edenred’s Capital Incentives and Motivation business.

Another ethical scheme is run by Charity Gift Vouchers, part of Donate As You Spend. Vouchers purchased through Charity Gift Vouchers, which are redeemable at a wide range of retailers, earn participating charities a 3% cut.

Before choosing a voucher scheme, it is worth establishing how much administration will be involved in setting up and running the scheme; a multi-outlet scheme with points-system, tied into a wider flexible benefits programme, may tie up more resource than some companies can afford.

Finally, and most importantly of all, it is worth doing some credit checks on your provider before signing up, says Johnson, particularly if it is an agency.

“Some agencies may provide a portal to the retailers, who you pay directly, or you may make payments straight to the agency, in which case, check their references. If they have a dispute with a retailer, you could be left high and dry.

“It’s not a problem with vouchers, because they are being delivered direct to you, but with a card scheme, it could be.”


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