Avoid a ‘naked wipeout’ when selecting staff rewards

wipeWhether it’s the chance to run out at Wembley Stadium, a cooking lesson with a celebrity chef, winning a walk-on part in a Hollywood blockbuster, a trip to the moon or even the chance to surf naked past Bondi beach, there is no limit to the remarkable experiences that staff dream of winning. These ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ prizes certainly help to grab attention and generate interest but, when it comes down to it, as part of employee incentive schemes, is it all too much sizzle and not enough sausage?

I’m often asked what type of prizes work best in employee incentive schemes. There is a common belief that in order to make an incentive scheme as high impact as possible, there must be headline-grabbing prizes on offer. The problem arises, however, when you examine your workforce profile and realise just how few people would actually relish the opportunity for some naked surfing, or even a day at a spa, should they meet their goals and qualify for a reward. Selecting prizes such as this may work against the objectives of an incentive scheme by alienating a majority of employees, causing more of a ‘naked wipe-out’ than helping the organisation to ‘catch a wave’.

While it is important to get staff on board by making incentive schemes exciting and interesting, the key objective must be to provide suitable incentives for the target audience. For this you need to know your people and give them as wide a choice as possible.

We tend to find that there is always room for a few slightly more extravagant rewards that can aid in marketing a scheme. We receive requests for prizes such as all-expenses paid holidays or an evening at a Michelin-starred restaurant. The vast majority of employers, however, seek the less exciting and more useful benefits such as money-off and special discounts for grocery or high street shopping.

Traditionally this has meant offering a voucher solution that can encapsulate all different tastes and requirements of a workforce and allow the recipient to choose exactly how to spend their reward. The more modern equivalent is to offer a prepaid card which can be loaded with funds and will facilitate reward-savings for the employee, while the employer benefits from easy administration and branding opportunities.

So when deciding on which rewards will work best for your workforce, you must either match the reward to an individual perfectly or allow them to do it themselves. Generally, attempting to second-guess their choice will mean a risk of getting it wrong and there’s no point offering haute cuisine to someone who is happier with sausage and mash!


  1. Are grocery / high street chain shopping vouchers the most popular because that’s what people really want or simply because that’s the easy (dare I say ‘lazy’) choice?

    Should organisations invest a lot more time in identifying an individual’s interests and then match those interests with a targeted range of attractive, personalised rewards, rather than a bulk standard selection of rewards? In today’s highly customer focussed world we create bespoke, segmented consumer offers. Would doing the same for our employees generate a better return?

    Perhaps vouchers or the pre-paid card offer a cost-effective route for the majority of participants but should we be offering something distinct for our top 20% of performers?

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