Reduce Turnover by Rewarding Employees More Frequently With Digital Gift Cards

By Virtual Incentives

A number of studies and surveys show the positive impact expressions of gratitude have on employees’ mental wellbeing and productivity. For example, American Psychological Association researchers found that 93% of employees who reported feeling valued said that they are motivated to do their best at work. According to a Glassdoor Employee Appreciation Survey, 70% of employees would feel better about themselves if their boss were more grateful, and 81% would work harder. But a recent survey of frontline healthcare workers caught our attention because it emphasizes the importance of issuing employee rewards on a regular and frequent timetable.

The researchers asked hundreds of doctors and nurses at nearly 200 hospitals in China and Singapore to report how much gratitude they received from patients. Their report, published on INSEAD, presents two key takeaways for business leaders across all industries: 

  1. “Since workers who identify more strongly with their occupation are more likely to be energized by gratitude received at work, it is in the direct interest of managers and organizations to nurture this sense of identity in employees.”
  2. “Annual grand gestures… are important but not enough. For gratitude to work its magic… the key is to practice it regularly.”¹
These conclusions mirror the feedback from clients that confirm frequently recognizing people for their hard work in front of their colleagues is a powerful motivator. They also tell us that in today’s digital-first, always-on world, creating an engaging, memorable experience also requires giving employees choices over the rewards they can select and the delivery methods. 

Not long ago, delivering rewards and incentivization payments meant handing out physical cards or dropping them in the mail. The latter method forced recipients to wait for days, or even months, to receive their payments. Today, the ability to issue e-gift cards offers several benefits over distributing plastic format, including:
  • Instant Happiness: Recipients can select instantaneous delivery to an email address, a mobile app, or a bank account. 
  • More Choices: Each recipient can choose their reward from multiple brands instead of accepting a physical gift card linked to only one brand. 
  • Environmental Conservation: Physical gift cards are often made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a type of plastic that is not recyclable in local curbside or commercial recycling programs and increasing  volumes of plastic gift cards are piling up in landfills or, worse, polluting the environment.

While issuing plastic gift cards in bulk remains a viable option for some use cases, more consumers are choosing their digital counterparts because they eliminate the lag time between achievement and reward. 

First Steps

Before launching your employee rewards program, create a budget and a timetable for issuing rewards, decide on specific goals employees will strive to achieve in order to earn rewards, and determine which employees will be eligible.

We recommend making rewards programs available to full-time employees across your org charts and consider including part-time employees and independent contractors who are fast becoming a critical part of the global workforce. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 4 million Americans quit their jobs in January 2022 alone, many of them to work for themselves as independent contractors. It’s a trend that began before the pandemic struck in 2020 and accelerated over the last year. MBO Partners’ annual State of Independence report reveals that the number of full- and part-time independent workers spiked 34% in 2021 to reach 51.1 million, up from 38.2 million in 2020. 

Reduce Cost and Complexity

Launching an effective reward program also requires overcoming technical and geographic obstacles to deliver a personalized, engaging experience. As the world moves through the coronavirus pandemic,
some measures companies of all sizes and across all industries took to help their employees cope, such as letting them work from home full-time and setting more flexible work schedules, are now permanent policies. A workforce that includes employees and contractors who work remotely can present challenges to issuing rewards, particularly when doing so internationally. 

Overcoming these challenges requires implementing an easy and cost-effective system that automates the entire rewards delivery process. Doing so means either tasking the IT department with building an in-house system or partnering with a solution provider. A key consideration is whether the former will pull employees away from their core responsibilities. Integrating a solution provider’s API should eliminate the need to hire new employees or train existing personnel on the technical skills required to build and integrate their own APIs into their IT stacks in order to automate the immediate and secure delivery of rewards, payments, or payouts.

When evaluating solution providers, place a high priority on user experience. Nothing is more frustrating than a website or platform that is difficult or frustrating to use. A slow or confusing rewards platform is a poor reflection on your business and puts a damper on something that’s supposed to be fun—redeeming rewards!

Insist on multiple digital delivery options including enabling recipients to receive and redeem rewards via their mobile devices. In 2021, 72.9% of all retail e-commerce came from mobile devices, up from 58.9% in 2017².  This means that almost three out of every four dollars spent on online purchases are coming from mobile, and that rate is accelerating as consumers increasingly turn to their smartphones and tablets as their first options for shopping online. 

Additionally, the ability to customize e-gift cards with a company’s branding and add personalized congratulatory messages creates a more personal and memorable experience for each recipient. 

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of offering the option for recipients to interact with another person, not just a chatbot or an email address. It’s important that the solution provider offers intelligent program management and ongoing customer service to employees if they have questions about their delivery and redemption options, relieving that burden from the IT and HR departments’ shoulders. 

The global pandemic has ushered in “The Great Resignation” as employees reevaluate their careers and leave their jobs in record numbers. A February 2022 McKinsey & Company survey found the top three reasons employees left their organization in the past six months were not feeling valued by the organization (54%) or their manager (52%) and not having a sense of belonging (51%). These statistics should raise a big red flag for companies: They need to measure and, if necessary, improve morale to prevent a surge in turnover. 

Implementing a formal employee recognition and reward program that frequently and consistently rewards employees for their hard work and accomplishments is proven to help them cope with stress and feel more motivated and engaged.

About Virtual Incentives
Virtual Incentives is the payments platform for engagement and action. Its mission is twofold: make it quick and easy for its clients to deliver payouts, incentives, or rewards to their customers or employees anywhere in the world; and to help its clients learn more about their customers and employees. Virtual Incentives delivers more than 40 million payments per year across 45 countries in 40 currencies. Virtual Incentives sets itself apart through its tailored approach to customer service and its technological innovation that enables companies to create payment experiences that deliver value, engagement and transparency. 

¹Chiara Trombini; Pok Man Tang, Ph.D.; Remus Ilies, “Gratitude Is More Powerful Than You Think”, INSEAD, February 22, 2022.
²“Mobile retail commerce sales as percentage of retail e-commerce sales worldwide from 2016 to 2021”, Statista, October 13, 2021.