For canny employers and their cash-strapped staff, collecting reward points can be a cost-effective way of boosting engagement. Kimberley Dondo reports

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Most employers will agree that the most difficult tasks in running a business are attracting, retaining and supporting a talented workforce.

With the cost of living rising faster than wages, employees now appreciate anything that subsidises their outgoings. Reward’s Wellbeing in the Workplace research report highlighted the fact that financial worries affect productivity, absenteeism and high staff turnover – showing that for a company to succeed, employers need to assuage their workers’ worries, and discount vouchers are a successful way to do so.

Research from American Express has shown that a third (34%) of companies put improved employee retention down to their rewards strategy.

Historically, the market has focused on enterprise business of more than 1000 employees, while the SME market has been poorly served. This is largely due to the cost of sales largely outweighing the value of the resulting contract.

However, there is no reason that SMEs cannot benefit from discount vouchers. There are solutions in the market that can cater for smaller organisations, such as the Software as a Service (SAAS), pioneered by PeopleValue, that has elements that are free to use.

Communication is important when it comes to persuading employees to use the discount vouchers on offer. PES has found that an average of 85% of users register and of those, 45% use discounted online shopping monthly; the average annual saving per employee is £850.

Ian Rummels, head of thinking and possibilities at PES, says: “Online shopping includes lifestyle benefits that not only save people money, but they also boost wellbeing. Among the most popular offers are cinema perks, offering up to 50% discount, and travel. As an employer, if you’re actively encouraging work/life balance, you’ll generate both productivity

and enthusiasm.”

He adds: “If you’re a smaller business, using one of the market leading online shopping portals brings big brand benefits to your employees – making them feel really valued – at no extra cost to you.”

Employees can also gain savings from accumulating reward points when they shop through an online portal. Some portals also reward users for switching their broadband, gas or electric supplier. These points can later translate into shopping vouchers.

When one considers the needs of a younger workforce, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services found that 84% of so-called millennials would rather receive experiences and vouchers, such as cinema discounts, than cash rewards.

Companies that provide these types of benefits have found this contributed to productivity; 63% of the higher performing organisations offered experiential rewards to their workforce.

Modern technology is integral to the lives of most people, and most employees now also expect their benefits to be supplied in an electronic format. Reloaded retail cards and instant e-codes have taken an increasing amount of market share, mainly because they are so easy to use in a variety of retail outlets as well as online.

Rummels says: “With thousands of high street retailers offering great deals, there’s a bargain to be had for anyone who wants clothes, food, gifts, flowers, holidays, toys, trips to the cinema and other attractions.

“Whatever your employee demographic, there will be something to appeal to almost everyone, making online shopping one of the most flexible benefits around.”

Top 5 tips to consider

  • Communication is key! For employers to see a return on investment, staff have to be made aware of what is available and how they can access it.
  • Smaller businesses can use online shopping portals that bring big brand benefits, making staff feel valued at no extra cost to the employer.
  • Savings can be made in many ways – for example, by collecting reward points, buying reloadable discount cards and taking advantage of point of purchase offers.
  • There are platforms available that build a custom plan based on a business’s demographics.
  • The quality of the solution must be straightforward. It needs to be simple and easy to understand for employees to engage with the benefits.