Star performers receive more than applause

Businesses aiming to motivate their staff and increase productivity are dangling ever juicier carrots before them. Mindi Chahal explores the latest trends in internal reward schemes


Valentine’s cards, dinners in marquees and talks from the founders of big business are all ways that brands are rewarding their staff, as well as more traditional gift vouchers.

Incentivising staff has never been more important than in today’s tough economic climate, because although businesses need staff to be more productive, many have had to cut back on bonuses and pay rises.

William Rogers, chief executive of commercial radio broadcaster UKRD, says: “Recognising your staff and what they do can become a virtuous circle because the better your people, the more success you have.”

In many ways, the economic climate has encouraged the development of smarter employee motivation schemes. Andy Woodbridge, management development coach at Ageas Insurance Solutions (AIS) says the company rewards its staff through a Love2Choose gift card. “It was initially introduced to provide one-off rewards, but it can now be topped up so card holders can save their balance and build it up over time,” he explains.

LV=: Displays employees of the year posters in its offices

The reasons why companies run motivation events affects the kinds of rewards given. TNT, which works with MotivAction on its events, tailors its schemes according to who they are aimed at. Sales teams take part in high-adrenaline events, whereas members of the operations department prefer longer-term schemes. These might include working on community projects and being part of the World Food Programme, which gives staff the opportunity to visit parts of Africa to help with building projects and spend time in the schools.

Previous events they have run include VIP evening events in London and sales incentive trips to Iceland, Dubrovnik and New York.

The Admiral Group runs similar schemes and also gives every staff member £1,500 of shares every six months and after 15, 20 and 25 years’ service staff receive an allocation of free shares. It also has a discretionary share scheme, where shares are awarded once a year based on seniority and performance.

Ceri Assiratti, head of people services at Admiral Group, says: “Reward and recognition is one of the four cornerstones of our culture and an effective way to reward staff is through our share schemes. Admiral is a successful business and we want our employees to share in that.”

The UK might be in recession, but the value and importance of reward schemes is highlighted by the fact that the Admiral Group has a Ministry of Fun, which is tasked with making work an enjoyable place to be for staff.

Admiral’s Ministry of Fun has an annual budget of £45,000 and each month, a different department is responsible for devising activities. Events occur throughout the year, ranging from Nintendo Wii competitions, quizzes and inter-department ‘Olympics’.

Wrigley: Handed out bespoke Monopoly sets

Commercial radio company UKRD Group, which topped this year’s Sunday Times list of best mid-sized companies to work for, spends about £250,000 a year on conferences, thank you events and social activities.

Rogers at UKRD says: “Each year we increase what we call the ‘cuddle’ budget for our recognition events and our training budget for development. We are spending £150,000 more this year than we were three years ago and we intend to increase that amount next year.
“This is hugely cost-effective for us as people work harder, they are committed, come up with more ideas and they are engaged.”

Including these activities within a company’s budget is important because it will improve the overall performance of the company, according to Lisa Birch, people and organisation director at Wrigley UK. “If people feel rewarded for the work they do, they will give more discretionary effort which in turn improves the success of the business,” she says. “It’s a virtuous circle of wellbeing and that’s why staff motivation is just not a discussion point, it’s what we do.”

Wrigley is one of many brands that are getting creative when it comes to rewarding people. When the company held a staff event to celebrate 100 years of selling gum in the UK, a special edition Monopoly board was designed and produced through Winning Moves, which makes the local and corporate editions of the game across Europe.

Instead of the traditional London streets, all the property squares were themed to a Wrigley product. This was given away to all employees during the conference, which included a dinner in a marquee in the grounds of its Plymouth factory, and talks from members of the Mars family – Mars Group being the parent company of Wrigley.

Pizza Hut also revamped its recognition programme to align with a recent push towards proving better service in its restaurants. Customers give feedback on their experiences via a website, which is promoted on the back of receipts, and was set up by provider Empathica.

The feedback comes in the form of a customer ‘wow’ for positive comments, or an alert for negative ones. Restaurant managers pick these up and can recognise and reward wows or give extra training to those staff members who trigger an alert. During staff meetings, those who have received wows are given gifts such as MP3 players or Lottery tickets.

While the actual prize may not carry a huge financial value, the reward is being recognised in front of your team.

Insurance company LV= follows a similar principle by encouraging staff to send ecards to colleagues and peers to thank them for hard work or support. The recipient’s manager is also copied in.

Pizza Hut: Rewards star performers with a trip to Africa

Louise Travis, head of reward at LV=, says: “It doesn’t always have to be monetary. Ecards are simply about sending a card that says thank you or well done. This recognition is becoming more important, especially when companies can’t put as much into salaries.”

While recognition is an important factor, companies have also realised the power of sharing. This is demonstrated through the use of newsletters, announcements on company intranets or in team meetings. For example, LV= displays employee of the month posters in its offices and Pizza Hut publicises all of its ‘wows’ by highlighting individual team members on its own social network called Hut Space.

As Malcolm Pickup, head of people and performance development at TNT, says: “Employee engagement surveys have shown us that it’s not always about monetary rewards. It’s often the opposite. People like a thank you and a pat on the back.”

Non-financial rewards link to the growing trend of corporate responsibility. Like TNT, Pizza Hut’s reward scheme also ties in with The World Food Programme, so whenever one of the team gets a positive comment through the website, the brand donates a cup of rice to feed a child in Africa for a day.

Team members who have generated the most wows are sent on a trip to Africa to see where the World Food Programme, which is part of Unicef, is making the most difference.

“This has driven real engagement within our team members,” claims Mike Spencer, operations director at Pizza Hut UK. “We employ a lot of 16 to 22 year olds and they want big corporate companies to have a social responsibility agenda, and they tend to select who they work for on that basis. It is a way to combine contributing to those less fortunate and encouraging our staff to deliver great service in our restaurants.”

This, of course, also helps a brand’s balance sheet. Pickup at TNT says: “Our key differentiator is that we recognise our people, and do what we can to engage them in our strategy and objectives, which is crucial. This encourages high performance, which delivers a great experience for our customer and if our customers are getting that experience it will only enhance our brand quality.”

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Rewarding your customers and staff has never been so important in current market conditions. Salaries are being squeezed and employees are finding it tough at the same time as companies need to increase customer numbers. Gift vouchers and cards offer an opportunity to increase customer loyalty and keep a highly motivated workforce.

In the past, paper vouchers provided millions of recipients with a tried, trusted and popular choice of reward that gives them the choice and flexibility to redeem their voucher against a product or service that they actually want. In many ways, the advance of technology has not changed that. People still demand flexibility and choice, but now they also want speed of delivery to receive their reward with a brand they can trust.

However, what will never change is choosing the right solution so the customer or employee feels tangibly rewarded. It is also just as important that the solution offers a choice of products or a lifestyle reward that fits with the individual recipient.

At M&S, we have found our gift cards, and more recently our egiftcards, are being used extensively for rewarding, motivating and incentivising employees and customers. Once delivered, the gift cards are live and ready to be used, and the business can manage the distribution according to its own reward schemes. Gift cards can be topped up too.

The technological advances of our egiftcard has allowed organisations to reward staff instantly for a job well done, reward a new customer for buying a new product or thank an existing customer for re-signing for its service. The solution allows its end recipient to shop in any of M&S’s 700 stores across the UK or at, so it offers greater flexibility and choice.

We have also launched a Dine In for £10 giftcard and egiftcard. We run about two Dine In events a month and using this reward can create a powerful emotional connection to your brand or company.

In terms of staff rewards, we continue to think of innovative products we can offer to our business-to-business customers and we have more B2B products launching this summer.

By recognising and rewarding customers and thanking staff for a job well done, businesses can be on their way to not only ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction but even greater levels of customer retention, referrals and a happy and engaged workforce.

How vouchers are used as inventives

Vouchers still play an integral part in rewarding employees for their efforts. They offer a wide variety of choice for the employee with vouchers created for travel, leisure and retail.

LV= has a My Recognition scheme that rewards staff for living its values and coming up with new ideas for the business. Vouchers go into an account where employees can choose from a range of incentives including shopping vouchers, days out and experiences.

The Wrigley UK Superstar scheme also uses vouchers as the reward, through employee recognition agency Globoforce. The scheme is also implemented online and recipients get a voucher they can use in retail stores, hotels and leisure experiences or they can forward their reward to someone else as a gift.

Lisa Birch, people and organisation director at Wrigley UK, says/ “One of my team members came in last week wearing a new coat they bought using vouchers received from the Superstar scheme. She said that every time she puts her coat on she remembers the reward and how much she was appreciated.”

Case study

O2: My Call

O2: My Call rewards programme aims to increase engagement

When O2 was looking for a flexible, innovative way of communicating with its call centre staff in order to improve sales performance and employee engagement, it used employee motivation company AYMTM to help it create O2 My Call.

Before the scheme was launched on Valentine’s Day, team leaders and selected staff were invited to a briefing on the programme to encourage buy in and prepare for site activity. To help create a buzz among all the staff, those at the briefing were given boxes of heart-shaped jellies to share with their colleagues on their return to work.

Launch day activity included desk drops of personalised Valentine cards and heart-shaped flyers, supported by plasma screen displays around the call centres. These communicated the day’s events which included prize draws, live performances, sales incentives and a chocolate fountain. Giveaways on the day included pens and branded notebooks containing information on the programme.

The main part of the My Call programme is the website, which provides participants with performance reporting, the latest incentive information and a calendar of upcoming activity. They can also use the site to access their personal reward accounts, redeem points and check their balances.

To maintain engagement and drive site traffic, there are regular interactive games and product knowledge quizzes where extra points can be earned. There is also the My Face page where scheme members can upload pictures of themselves and share them with colleagues.

A series of My Call events throughout the year, including on-site roadshows that feature live performances, giveaways, quizzes, prize draws and information on the latest incentive activity, a large-scale summer ball and the My Call Elite trip that whisks a select few off to destinations such as Marrakesh, Chamonix and Monte Carlo, all support the core programme.



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