By Ilona Kogutiuk, head of Smartbox Business Solutions

In the current climate, it is easy for business owners to overlook just how great an impact staff incentives can have on their workforce. While most employers now see some form of staff reward or incentive as a ‘must’, many do not give a great deal of thought to the message they are hoping to put across, nor the business results they would like to achieve.

However when it comes to staff rewards, it really is the thought that counts. Gifts that are personal and offer an employee a choice are always the most memorable and, therefore, the ones that create the greatest bond between employer and employee. Ultimately, these gifts also provide the greatest ROI — helping to increase staff productivity, reduce absenteeism, and improve staff retention.

Experience gifts are an ideal way of showing employees that you appreciate them as human beings, not just as cogs in a well-oiled machine. While cash gifts tend to be absorbed into the recipient’s day-to-day living expenses, and soon forgotten, giving staff the opportunity to treat themselves or try something new can have a much more meaningful effect on morale. The excitement generated by receiving a ‘something-I’ve-always-wanted-to-do’ experience makes them the most powerful tangible reward of all.

This is particularly true during challenging economic times. Experience and travel incentives allow people to treat themselves without feeling guilty. This means that hard work becomes a way to acquire something that staff couldn’t justify spending their own money on — a treat that is hard-earned and, therefore, all the more enjoyable. And the anticipation of receiving such guilt-free indulgence inspires staff members to make positive changes to their behaviour and perform to the very best of their ability.

An experiential reward can take the form of a team away-day, allowing employers to, in a sense, ‘kill two birds with one stone’. Sharing a memorable experience is a great way of creating bonds between colleagues, reinforcing a sense of shared responsibility and improving team working abilities.

As gift experiences come in many different forms, you can easily and effectively tailor the incentive to the staff member. A product that offers choice, such as a Smartbox, allows you to choose the theme that best suits the recipient, whilst allowing them to pick where, and when, they redeem the voucher. So you can give a voucher for a gourmet meal, should the employee be a keen foodie; or a voucher for a white-knuckle adrenaline activity, should you be buying for someone known for their need for speed.

Such solutions provide a guarantee that the recipient will really enjoy experience, as they get to choose it themselves. Employees then make a positive connection between the experience that they so enjoyed and their feelings towards workplace. And as the concept of choice in itself is empowering, giving your staff the gift of choice demonstrates to them that their input and opinion is of utmost importance to you — again strengthening the bond between employer and employee.

As Dr Scott Jeffrey articulated in his 2007 report on the benefits of tangible non-monetary incentives; ‘several principles of social and cognitive psychology suggest that participants may perceive non-monetary incentives to be more valuable than the retail value of that award in cash’. In short, the perceived value of gift experiences is often far higher than their cash equivalent — meaning that experience gifts allow employers to spend less to see greater levels of staff motivation.

Gift experiences are a more personal, memorable and therefore powerful employee gift. The memories they produce act as a lasting reminder of success. For employers, they represent an affordable way of motivating staff, leading to higher attendance levels, greater staff retention and performance.

Smartbox is the global leader in gift experiences.

Join us on

Follow @freshbusiness