Pre-paid cards grow as employee motivation tool

Employers can also enable staff to make a monthly salary deduction with the value loaded onto their card, enabling them to obtain cash back and discounts on purchases at selected retailers. This can appeal to staff looking to get the best value for their money.

One of the advantages of pre-paid cards is that they facilitate instant recognition and reward. Funds can be added to an individual card online, and a text or email sent to the recipient confirming this. Alex Speed, head of corporate sales at Love2reward, says: “The immediacy makes them ideal for situations where staff may not be eligible for bonuses, for example those in call centres, but their employers want to reward good performance. They can also be used to reward mobile workers, field sales staff and home workers.”

The cards can also be used in conjunction with other reward mechanisms. Sean Wilkinson, managing director of motivation specialist Corporate Rewards, says: “One of our clients, Britvic, uses a points-based bank account system for its call-centre employees, with reward points paid in for sales and customer service performance and for other areas of HR recognition. These points can be uploaded to a pre-paid card or used for purchases from an online catalogue. To date, pre-paid card upload has proved overwhelmingly the more popular option.”

Many pre-paid cards can be used outside the UK, which is handy for travel-related purchases and means a single form of card can be used for pan-European programmes.

What really determines whether a pre-paid reward card is suitable for a particular workforce is the value individual staff derive from it; in other words, whether they can use it to the maximum financial advantage.

Bezani says: “You need a broad spectrum of good retailers on board, but you have to choose them carefully by looking at where employees are spending. Accurate employee feedback is crucial.”

High staff turnover

But pre-paid debit cards are less effective in organisations and sectors that have a high staff turnover. Wilkinson says: “These tend to work best where there is an ongoing commitment, because most cards have a two-year lifespan. An organisation with a high level of staff churn or a short-term commitment to the programme will waste a proportion of that lifespan.”

Here, the more traditional retailer gift card, pre-loaded with a set amount of cash, can still be of value, says Kuljit Kaur, head of business development at P&MM. “These are an excellent instant reward, and with many of the bigger retailers moving to pre-paid gift cards, there is more choice. [Employers] can send a card out to an employee, activate the funds once they have received it, and if they earn another reward a few weeks later, more funds can be added.”

Pre-paid cards and electronic reward schemes tend to have instant appeal for younger, tech-savvy workers, but older staff may feel apprehensive about using a card.

Mike Parrot, director of motivation and communication at AYMTM, says: “Communication is a critical part of the process as the experience should be no different to someone using their regular bank card to make a purchase. But they must believe in the card and its acceptance by retailers.

“Recognition of a job well done is perceived to be more valued when it is communicated and rewarded with minimal delay. These cards offer immediate reward from performance to cash in the wallet.”

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