Incentive Gifts for Employees – Flexibility is Best when Using Tangible Rewards to Motivate Employees

Incentive gifts for employees – especially sales and customer support team members whose emotional labor is crucial to your company’s continued success – are one of the most effective and inexpensive extrinsic motivators available to small and large companies alike. Tangible rewards like gift cards, electronics and apparel are used in performance-based reward programs by thousands of U.S. companies across all industries. In fact, research conducted by the Incentive Federation in 2016 found that approximately 84% of U.S. businesses offer tangible rewards (including gift cards and merchandise) to motivate, engage and retain employees – a $90 billion annual investment.

Non-Cash Rewards Motivate Employees More than Cash (Most of the Time)

The reason for this hefty sum is because non-cash rewards – including free trips, gift cards, extra time off, and merchandise like apparel and gift baskets – are likely more effective at motivating employees than cash rewards in most cases. In 2005, researchers at Northwestern University found evidence that non-cash awards programs work better than cash when it comes to rewarding employees for better teamwork and increased customer satisfaction, among other organizational goals. Yet they also learned that cash is still a more effective reward when it comes to motivating salespeople to exceed sales goals. Ray Fisman, a Behavioral Economics professor, addressed this contradiction in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article, Forget About That Cash Bonus: “The motivational effects of cash surely become more important when the stakes get higher, and gifts probably work best when tailored to the particular set of employees involved. That’s how you really show you care.”

The Benefits of Personalized Incentive Gifts for Employees

While providing gift cards and certificates to local businesses (like restaurants, coffee shops, and spas) or gifting experiences (such as event tickets and travel vouchers) are excellent motivational rewards for employees, many companies prefer to use branded merchandise – such as promotional hats and t-shirts or branded tech gifts like wireless speakers, power banks, and earbuds – as incentive gifts for employees. That is because the gift of branded merchandise (aka company swag) provides a physical reminder of an employer’s appreciation and recognition of hard work and dedication. Tangible employee incentive gifts like branded merchandise help create memories. Employees will appreciate the thought and effort behind the gift yet branded incentive gifts also help a company build its brand awareness. An employee wearing a jacket with an employer’s logo on it in his or her free time equals free advertising. When it comes to an employee incentives and rewards program, why not accomplish two goals – motivate your employees and increase brand awareness – at once?

Flexibility is Key – Let your Employees Choose their Own Incentive Gifts

Tangible Rewards to Motivate Employees

Showing how much you care about your employees via carefully selected employee recognition and incentive gifts can be a powerful motivator and have a direct impact on employee productivity. However, there is another way to distribute incentive rewards that recent research indicates may be more effective at employee motivation than personally selected gifts.

In the 20th century, many large corporations and mid-size companies let their personnel pick their own work anniversary and holiday gifts from a company catalog. The 21st century version of a company gift catalog is an online company store. Giving your workforce the flexibility to choose their own incentive gifts from an online company store will help you make sure they receive the specific non-cash rewards they want the most – from gift cards to company swag.

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) conducted a study in 2020 on the use of incentives and rewards in top performing technology companies. According to the IRF: “A key differentiator between technology Top Performers and their Comparators was the priority placed on flexibility of tangible rewards. Top Performers were more than twice as likely to list this as their most important consideration (35%) when giving merchandise or gift cards (Comparators, 14%). Comparators’ top priority was ease of administration (17%) […] The data suggested Top Performers understood that ‘one size does not fit all’ and that flexibility was a critical component to a successful incentives program.” A similar study on top performing financial services companies and their competitors also found that the top performing companies in the financial services industry well understood the importance of flexibility, as well as the relevance of rewards, when distributing incentive awards in their organizations.

In other words, letting your employees choose their own incentive gifts is a crucial component of a modern-day employee incentives and rewards program. It might be easier to hand out the exact same type of incentive gifts to everyone in your company – but it is likely not nearly as effective as planning an employee incentive program that gives your personnel flexibility to choose their own gifts.

Easily Manage an Employee Incentive Program with an Online Company Store

An online company store helps streamline the process of distributing rewards to motivate employees – with a BrandHub Online Company Store, you gain access to a variety of methods that will help you provide a wide range of tangible incentives to your employees. Promo codes, gift cards and spending accounts can be easily set for company, group, or user specific values in your online company store, allowing you to adjust your reward for specific workers or divisions. Temporary stores (aka pop-up shops) are also available – a great option for companies who only need to hand out employee awards once a year. Pop-up company stores are also useful for corporations seeking to test out a new employee incentive and rewards program. A temporary store can be locked to only allow entry if a password is entered, ensuring that only the right users are able to access the site. Furthermore, you can give the user the option to pay by credit card or – in the case of employee gifts – simply select a product and have it billed to the company.

To get started with setting up your own 21st century employee incentive program to motivate and reward your hard-working employees, Contact Us or fill out the form below.