Magazine article Workforce Management

So Plastic: Gift Cards Are Most Popular Incentive

Magazine article Workforce Management

So Plastic: Gift Cards Are Most Popular Incentive

Article excerpt

They offer much of the flexibility of cash and let employers raise their profile by adding logos or personalized messages

THE EMPLOYEE at JK Harris & Co. had helped a reporter understand a complex tax issue on very short notice, even writing up a detailed explanation. Josh Baker, marketing director for the Charleston, South Carolina-based tax resolution firm, wanted to quickly express his thanks.

So Baker sent his colleague a compliment via e-mail the next day. Underneath the notebook on his desk, he told the employee, he would find two gift cards to Outback Steakhouse.

Baker could have provided a cash bonus instead. But cash must be processed through payroll, with related taxes taken out, weakening its impact, Baker says. A gift card, he says, "provides instant notification that your work is appreciated."

Gift cards remain the most popular employee incentive, providing much of the flexibility of cash, but with a personalized touch. Companies also can raise their own profile by adding corporate logos or personalized messages, recognition experts say.

Two-thirds of managers reported using gift certificates or gift cards to recognize employees, according to a 2005 survey of 235 managers conducted by Northwestern University's Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement. By comparison, 59 percent used cash rewards and 57 percent relied on merchandise incentives, according to the survey results, released in July.

A gift card can provide bragging rights several times over, beginning with recognition among workplace peers, and then later when that employee pulls out the plastic to pay for dinner or that long-desired television, says Nancy Serrato, president of the Incentive Gift Card Council. …

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