Employee discount programs appeal to all levels of employees

Bayer and Telus see high participation rates, attract talent with discount programs
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/11/2011

When Gord Johnston, vice-president of HR at Bayer, wanted to add a bit more value to the company’s total employee offerings, he turned to an employee discount program.

“We offer a number of unique programs to our employees — employee recognition programs, flexible work programs — and we thought this would complement the programs we had and offer valuable discounts,” he says.

While the company headquarters in Toronto had a social club in place where members could find local discounts, it didn’t have anything that would reach all its employees across the country, says Johnston.

“Particularly for field employees, sometimes they feel like they miss out on all this stuff so, yeah, we have a gym on-site but where is their gym?” he says.

So Johnston looked into a national program called WorkPerks that offers discounts to 700 national brands and businesses across Canada.

The cross-Canada reach was also what garnered Telus’ interest in WorkPerks.

“What’s important to us about a discount program is because we have team members across Canada, some in large cities, some in more rural areas, we wanted to be able to offer a discount program that could reach everybody and that was bilingual,” says Carol Craig, director of HR, pensions and benefits at Telus in Vancouver.

The program offers a wide range of discounts for categories such as restaurants, travel, fitness, clothing, technology and entertainment. And it includes major brand names such as Jack Astor’s, Apple, FlightNetwork.com and Empire Theatres. The amount of the discount varies but Johnston has seen it range from five per cent to 30 per cent.

“It covers a broad range of interests, there’s a broad range of things available, and team members can go online and find the discount that’s of interest to them,” says Craig.

Employees who are interested in the program simply create an account on the WorkPerks website with their employee ID or company email and they can then access the site and the discounts at work or at home. They can browse through different categories of discounts, pick the ones they want and follow the instructions for use, such as using an online code or printing a coupon.

Employees can also share this account with their families.

“Maybe you as the employee aren’t interested but your family members are — your wife, daughter, husband — so they can go in and access those discounts as well,” says Johnston.

The cost to the employer for offering this benefit is “very reasonable,” says Johnston. With 800 employees across Canada, Bayer pays $15 per employee per year for the WorkPerks program. But the larger the company, the better the price. One company that Johnston referred to the program has 5,000 employees and pays only $3 per employee per year, he says.

This small cost is worth it for Bayer, as 80 per cent of its employees have signed up for the program and an average of 250 discounts are accessed per month, says Johnston.

At Telus, 70 per cent of its 28,000 employees across Canada have signed up for WorkPerks and about 7,000 discounts are accessed every month, says Craig.

“It’s very, very cheap at the end of the day,” says Johnston. “As an employer to offer this, we’re talking just a number of small dollars a year per employee, and when you look at our take-up, there’s a lot of value there.”

Employee discount programs add value to an organization’s total rewards, which make them even more appealing when recruiting new talent, he says.

“In order to recruit and retain the best talent in this challenging environment that we’re in right now, we need to be able to offer a complete suite of compelling benefits and (an employee discount program) provides value and helps us to achieve that,” says Craig.

To launch the program and communicate it to employees, the HR team at Telus sent targeted emails about the new program and posted information about it on the company intranet. At Bayer, HR business partners promoted it at employee meetings and it is also re-advertised on a weekly basis in the Bayer enewsletter, says Johnston.

All maintenance is handled by WorkPerks which is much more efficient and cost-effective than an internal employee discount program, Telus previously had in place, says Craig.

“When we were trying to run it internally, we would be using a number of different departments, so it could be our salespeople because they had been approached by somebody, it could be our legal people had to be involved or communications… so this external program is much more efficient,” she says.

The feedback from employees about the program is positive and they are often discussing the discounts they find, says Craig. And there has never been any feedback about a coupon not working or not being honoured, says Johnston.

At Bayer, the most popular discounts are those for electronics and restaurants, and employees often print a coupon and use it on their lunch break, he says.

“Especially in the last couple of years, everybody’s looking for an opportunity to save… and these kinds of programs are saving them money on a day-to-day basis,” says Johnston. “I think it’s not even dependent on income, everybody likes to save if they can.”

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