03 18th, 2016

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If you want to motivate or recognize the performance of millennials, give them a choice of gift cards.

Recent research conducted by NPD Group and the Wharton School finds that gift cards are particularly popular with the younger generation.  It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that this group is “wired”, they grew up online, are connected always through various devices, and when they shop they prefer to use gift cards, and specifically electronic gift cards.

While various groups can agree or disagree on traditional vs electronic gift cards, in general, most of the younger age groups, and even many Boomers, prefer general purpose bank cards vs specific store cards because they can be used almost anywhere.  Unfortunately, from the perspective of a buyer of employee recognition programs, these bank cards can charge purchase fees from $3.95 to $6.95 per card.  And, as the vast majority of gift cards used in recognition programs are valued at $25, these fees can amount to an additional 15% to 30% added to your budget.

When faced with this choice, buyers often consider using one of several gift card solutions that are available in the incentive industry.  These solutions allow them to award one card or certificate that can then be redeemed for large array of popular gift cards.  Many of these solutions also contain a fee per card, but there is one that doesn’t…the Award of Choice.

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Many people in the incentive industry will say that cash as an award doesn’t motivate as well as non-cash.  Frankly to say that cash doesn’t motivate is disingenuous. It is innately tied to our perceptions of reward as a universal motivator in this country.   It is easy to use, easy to distribute, and fulfills many of the needs that people have.  In difficult economic times it can certainly be very motivating.

However, there are two sides to using cash as a motivator, and to understand when to use cash and when to use alternative awards requires an understanding of both sides.

Over the years we have spent a great deal of time researching cash and non cash as an employee award and have come up with at least eight reasons why non cash may be a better choice when attempting to motivate and award employees.

For a systematic review of the features and benefits of cash and non cash please see Is Cash a Good Incentive Award?

02 16th, 2016


In employee interview after employee interview we constantly hear the complaint that their company just doesn’t listen to them and rarely gives them rewards that appeal to their own lifestyle.

Thousands of companies purchase and issue gift cards to their employees but it is exceedingly rare for a company to purchase and inventory several different gift cards in order to give their employees a choice.  It’s just not feasible to spend company budgets on many different gift cards that sit a drawer waiting for the employee to choose it.  It doesn’t even make sense.

So the company picks one or two gift to keep around and limits the choice and cost.  Unfortunately that doesn’t do much for the employee, especially if they don’t really like or use the cards the company chose.

There are several gift card systems, including the Award of Choice, that allow an employee to pick the card that best suits their needs.  Some companies sell these systems without fees so on a one to one basis the systems can cost you less than doing it yourself, and will provide so much more.

If they cost the same as buying the gift cards on your own, wouldn’t it just make sense to give the employees the choice?


It’s become common practice in the incentive industry for award and recognition companies to say that they are award neutral.  This should mean of course that they have no bias toward what award you use in your incentive and recognition programs.  Unfortunately for most of them that is completely untrue!  It’s like the politicians telling us anything they want us to hear; they always spin the story to their bias….always!  Do any of them ever tell you the whole truth?

Anyone selling awards has a bias toward what award they are trying to sell.

When you are trying to determine what recognition award to use, the best position you can be in is finding out what awards your employees really want, not what you think they want, or what an award company tells you they want, or frankly what you want them to have.

The success of award programs is often in direct proportion to the motivation appeal of the award that the participants can earn.  When it’s not what they want, they won’t do much to attain it.

So take the time to choose the right combination of awards.  The success of your program will depend on it.  Here’s a paper on What Incentive or Recognition Award to Use that will provide some good food for thought.

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According to recent research on gift cards published by Incentive Magazine 97.6% of all incentive users reporting felt that gift cards were effective, very effective or extremely effective.  Actual research results were:

The diversity of today’s workforce demands something different from the same traditional merchandise awards that were used for their parents and grandparents.

Total Effectiveness of Gift Cards as Employee Awards  

% of Responses

Effective 17.6%
Very Effective 48.85%
Extremely Effective 31.2%

By any measure, gift cards are the most effective recognition award for two simple reasons:

  • They provide the greatest choice and value for the award winner
  • Unquestionably they give the client the most cost effective means to recognize performance

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