A bonus should create engagement with a feeling that the employer is genuinely interested in employees. That sounds similar to the choices available when giving personal gifts to family and friends, but there’s a difference.
With family and friends, one can give vouchers, money, or returnable gifts, or items that offer flexibility. The receiver can get what they really want, and not have to say ‘thank you, it’s lovely’ for a gift that hits the charity shop before the New Year.
However, if those gifts are impersonal, there’s a potential message of: ‘I can’t be bothered to find out what you want; I’ll take the easier option, ensure you don’t hate it and risk you feeling let down by my not taking more trouble.’
With a corporate bonus, the context is different. Except in small organisations (which may be figuratively and literally a family), it’s unlikely there’s either the expectation or even the possibility of giving a really personal gift.
So the trend of digitalised incentives looks to be valuable, since it’s also a trend towards more flexibility.
A hamper, wine or similar specifics may appeal, but they may not – and they may, depending on personal preference and religious or cultural taboo, actually have a negative impact. Even a voucher for a specific store may not work. In the same way that our favourite films are personal, so are our shopping habits, and it’s not often that you’ll find a large group who all like the same store.
By contrast, a multi-store voucher or something like a spending limit on experience days, is flexible enough to be enjoyed widely.
It can also be worth looking for suggestions for a list of digital incentives, as they maintain flexibility while helping to keep bonus items of personal relevance, and they also provide involvement and a sense of ownership.
Kim Stephenson is a business psychologist and member of the Association for Business Psychology