Discount programs a popular benefit

Employees at Deloitte, EllisDon appreciate range of options, mobile access
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/11/2015

A few years back, Deloitte was working with several vendors to offer discounts to employees — but it wasn’t going so well.

With various organizations involved and multiple contracts and deals, it was difficult to manage,  according to Diana Bartolic, associate partner within the talent group at Deloitte in Vancouver. The setup was also dependent on Deloitte’s intranet, and there was no sense of usage.

But for the past couple of years, the company, which has just under 9,000 employees in Canada, has used just one platform: Venngo’s WorkPerks. 

“We’re working with one vendor who manages all the other vendors and makes it available to us in a very simple-to-use website,” she says.

The program gives employees access to a co-branded site where they can pick from a selection of discount offers and deals from well-known retailers and local businesses.

“It’s gone extremely well,” says Bartolic. “We get a lot of positive feedback from our employees. The number of discounts that they have access to, particularly in the bigger cities, the bigger marketplaces, is great. (There’s) lots of variety in the different categories, so people feel that they get a lot of value for their dollar with that… People really like the exposure that the program has.”

And while there might be fewer options in the smaller markets, Venngo is good about reaching out to those communities to look for different vendors to bring onboard, she says.

There are more than 1,200 vendor partners, according to Paul Weissman, president and CEO of Venngo in Toronto.

“Clearly, the big brand-name companies are the most popular in certain categories, so we have about 20 categories of merchants or vendors and, traditionally, we’ll find five categories always the most popular…: restaurants, shoes and apparel, entertainment, travel and electronic goods.”

When an employer signs on — paying an annual flat fee based on headcount — Venngo builds a private, co-branded site employees can access. There’s also a pre-launch, launch and post-launch to promote the new benefit — which helps with the engagement and penetration factor, he says — followed by continual e-newsletters and communications.

There’s also a mobile app that can be used on any type of phone, says Weissman.

“During the day, whether they’re pulling out their iPhone or they’re online, there’s a positive engagement and more so after work, when they go home, they’re with their families or they go into the mall on weekends, taking the families out, they’re constantly having this engagement factor where they can check out the app, go into the local mall, see what’s around… and just start taking advantage of the program. So it’s a high level of satisfaction.”

Not your typical benefit

It’s a unique perk, according to Sandra Wilson, manager of payroll and benefits at EllisDon in London, Ont., which has offered the benefit for about six years.

“It’s not your typical health, dental, insurance or pension benefit and it was something else that we could offer that’s kind of a fun benefit — that usually involves travel, shopping, entertainment, dining out — that we felt the employees could take advantage of and appreciate,” she says.

“Compensation and benefits and how employees are treated and respected are the main reasons why we attract employees, but discounts and giveaways, I feel they’re kind of like the icing on the cake. It’s an extra thing that we can give to the employees to show how we appreciate their hard work and their dedication and, in turn, that makes employees loyal to EllisDon.” 

People who opt in receive monthly emails updating them on the benefits. And the mobile app is popular, says Wilson.

“When you’re going to the mall, you don’t want to be printing off a whole bunch of coupons for different stores you may not be going to, so the mobile app is really handy, it’s a great addition.”

The program is very easy to use, says Bartolic.

“It’s not a concierge service but it kind of has a little bit of that flavour to it,” she says. “At my desktop, it’s very easy to find 

discounts that I can take advantage of that are really close to home.”

Bartolic doesn’t necessarily view the service as an engagement platform but more as an additional benefit. 

“(Employees) are able to save money, use their dollars more effectively. It’s a cost-effective strategy for them and gives them a chance to emphasize the benefit or realization for them from a take-home pay kind of idea,” she says. “Do benefits add to engagement? Sure, probably down the road they do but I think we went more so from the fact of we want something that our people can find value-add to them.”

And to keep people motivated and interested in the program, Deloitte might share anecdotal stories about how the program is being used, she says. Employers can also host vendor days or run contests.

There are category-specific newsletters sent out — around categories such as health and wellness, dining and food or entertainment — that usually go out two or three times per month, but people can opt out if they want, says Weissman. 

“The open rates for these newsletters are typically well over 70 per cent which, in the industry, is pretty high,” he says. “People are looking forward to them, they want to see what’s the latest, how can they save money.”

Regular reports

Venngo sends out regular reports to employers with stats that include how many people are onboard, how many were brought onboard during a given month, the top 25 categories and the top 25 most popular perks or merchants, says Weissman.

“Also, we’ll show them how much traffic each one of those had both in the mobile world and in the online world,” he says. “We continually look at and review what the usage patterns are to see what people are doing, what they like within our perks platform itself. We have a suggest-a-perk tool which anybody can leverage and they do leverage.”

And the reports are always being tweaked and enhanced, says Weissman.

“Right now, we are developing something that’s going to give (employers) a sense of how much the staff overall has saved in a given month.”

In one month, EllisDon saw it had 1,200 active accounts, 1,100 employees subscribing to the emails, 16 new accounts, 312 visits to different perks, about 3,000 page views, 35 perk coupons were printed and 175 visits to online perks, says Wilson.

“It’s important that employees are using it because if they’re not using that as much, then I need to bring it to their attention and if still no one’s using it, then maybe it’s something the employees aren’t interested in and we don’t need to offer it anymore. But it’s nice to see employees are using it and enjoying it.”

Usage rates are important, says Bartolic.

“When we think about it from a communications perspective, (we know) what should we be emphasizing or promoting more… those are useful stats,” she says. “We would definitely be concerned if we saw a drop in usage rates because to provide a benefit, we want to make sure people are taking advantage of it.

“As with any of our benefits, whether it be pension, dental, health, we’ll always look at our usage rates because as the workforce has progressed and transitioned, people need different things at different times. So we’re always looking at: ‘Is the money we’re spending, are we spending it in the right place?’”

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