Are your incentive programs giving employees what they want?

‘Incentive gap’ reveals mismatch between incentives employers use and incentives employees want

Despite an uncertain economy, that majority of employers still offer incentives and rewards to motivate their employees — but those incentives may not be things employees actually want.

That was one of the key findings in the 2014 Canadian Incentive Trends Survey of 669 Canadian professionals, which found 69 per cent of Canadian companies are still using incentives and rewards for employee motivation.

However, a gap exists between the incentives organizations offer and the incentives they believe employees actually want, found the survey.

More than half (53 per cent) of the companies in the survey offered company-branded merchandise, and 73 per cent offered retail gift cards as incentives. But survey participants rank prepaid credit cards the highest in terms of incentive offers.

“The incentive gap exists because recipients clearly want more choice and flexibility in the rewards they receive,” said Dave Eason, CEO of Berkeley Payment Solutions.

The multi-generational workforce further complicates incentive programs, found the survey. Fifty-three per cent of respondents found it somewhat difficult to motivate all age groups, and 39 per cent said millennials are the most difficult generation to choose an appropriate incentive for.

“Our research over the past five years has shown that participant satisfaction continues to grow as a key measure of success for corporate incentive programs, yet Canadian companies are still offering traditional incentives that they don’t believe their employees want,” said Eason.

“This is indicative of the incentive merchandise model that dominates the rewards space. It’s unlikely that administrators are getting the full benefit from their programs if the incentives they choose are not truly valued by their employees.”

Other key findings include:

• Employee incentive and rewards programs are not just for big businesses, with 64 per cent of respondents indicating they work for an organization with less than 500 employees.

• Organizations from a wide spectrum of industries use employee incentives and rewards with 70 per cent of those polled indicating they are in the private sector.

• Retail gift cards are perceived as the most cost-effective incentive.

• Experiential special events or experiences such as concert tickets or sports events are perceived as the least cost-effective incentives.

Latest stories