By Danny Clenaghan, Managing Director at Argos for Business,

According to Wikipedia, an employee benefit is a ‘non wage compensation provided to employees in addition to their normal salary, such as insurance (health, dental, life), daycare, sick leave etc. The term ‘perks’ is often used to refer to those benefits of a more discretionary nature.’

In recent years this definition has changed and the employer focus has shifted when it comes to employee benefits. In the past, staff benefits may have comprised of occupational sick pay and workplace pensions, but these types of benefits are now often seen as an extension of a salary and the ‘perks’ are now considered to be the benefit.

Attractive packages may help to encourage an employee to join a company in the first instance, but that initial feeling of satisfaction doesn’t always last. Businesses have learnt that keeping employees motivated is key to improving sales, productivity, morale and that it can even change behaviour in terms of improving time keeping and reducing absenteeism.

Cash bonuses were a popular choice of employee benefit and are still well received by employees, but the true impact has been brought into question as over time, employees have begun to expect a bonus and consider it as a part of their pay packet. When a bonus is paid directly into an employees’ bank account, it is also easier for them to spend on everyday expenses instead of a genuine reward.

As some businesses were forced to make cut backs during the recession, cash bonuses were an obvious casualty. Increasingly, employers have begun to look for new ways to implement rewards more effectively and ensure maximum return on investment. Giving something more tangible has become more popular.

Those who are better educated about the different options will see the most success.

Issues to be considered:

• Tailored choice – should an employer buy a specific gift, such as a food hamper, a bottle of wine, or an iPod? Or should it offer additional holidays or duvet days? Whatever the choice, it is important to consider staff needs and aspirations so that the reward can cater to recipients whatever their personal circumstances or interests.

The right choice also allows the employer to align themselves with a highly regarded product or brand that reflects the company ethos

• A one-size fits all approach is ineffective – for maximum effect, the employer would need to offer a benefit that would meet the needs / desires of a range of individuals

• Creating a rewards system that can easily be adapted to suit the ever-changing needs of the business is a challenge. They may need quick results, or be looking to change behaviour over time, so flexibility is key

• Financial pressure on individuals and families means that it has become more important to separate reward and recognition remunerations from the monthly payroll, so that employees view them as a genuine added benefit

Keeping in mind the above, the way in which an employer goes about implementing their incentive strategy has become crucial.

Some employers believe giving a physical gift has a more personal touch and instant impact, so where this is deemed desirable, Argos for Business customers can choose from a huge range of 29,000 products available in-store and online, including electricals, jewellery and watches, technology, sporting goods, home furnishings and toys.

Businesses also need to give thought to whether or not they can hold stock. Argos for Business developed Argos Collection Code to remove the need for businesses to store goods or arrange delivery where providing a product is desirable – employees are given a code and can use it to pick their reward up at their own convenience from any Argos store. This ensures a more instant impact and removes any risk of the feel good moment being lost whilst the employee awaits delivery.

Gift cards are also popular because of the flexibility they afford – the employee can choose a gift to meet their own needs and so provide a great solution for employers working with a mixed demographic. They also come in a range of denominations, which makes them easier to distribute whether allocating a high or low level of spend. Argos Gift Cards can be redeemed at any one of 735 Argos stores nationwide.

The ability to top-up a reloadable gift card is also appealing where a medium to long term incentive scheme is required. In circumstances where employers look to change behavior, for example, staff can be rewarded for performance and dedication over the course of several months.

Knowing your aims and the different options available from the outset will go a long way to helping you choose what works for your workforce.