Initiatives to increase employee motivation will receive greater focus from Canadian executives over the coming year, according to a new study.

The 2011 Canadian Incentive Trends Survey, conducted in April by Berkeley Payment Solutions, found that 88% of the 429 executives polled list increasing employee motivation as a management priority over the coming year.

When asked how they use incentive programs, 68% indicated that they used such initiatives as an employee benefit, an increase from 56% who said the same last year. Asked why they use such programs, 69% of executives surveyed said employee motivation was a top reason.

"We've seen an increase in demand for employee programs in the last year, as organizations look to adopt cost-effective strategies to motivate employees, improve team performance, and meet business goals," says David Eason, CEO of Berkeley Payment Solutions.

Survey results indicate that 72% of respondents have used corporate incentive programs as part of their business strategy, with more than half (54%) feeling their organization has gained a competitive advantage as a result of these programs.

Asked which incentive programs they've used, 67% say they have offered store-specific gift cards, followed by merchandise (52%), branded prepaid credit cards (34%), specials events (34%), and incentive travel (25%).

According to the survey, store-specific gift cards were perceived as the most cost-effective (39%) and easiest incentive vehicle to administer (51%). Yet only 28% said they believe these provide the highest ROI, compared to 38% who said prepaid credit cards provide the highest return.

"With employment rates on an upward trend, the need to attract and retain high performing employees continues to intensify," said Eason. "To accomplish this, more and more companies across the country are adopting customized employee incentive programs that are flexible, measurable, and easy to adapt as business objectives shift."

Of respondents whose organizations were able to measure program results, almost all (91%) confirmed their program was either moderately or very successful at achieving desired objectives.

The majority (66%) of business leaders polled indicated their current incentive program budgets have stayed the same or increased the same percentage who responded this way last year.

Almost three-quarters (71%) said the number of programs they are running this year either increased or stayed the same, compared to 73% in 2010. And 46% said the current economic outlook will have no impact on their corporate incentives budget over the next 12 months, up from 39% last year.

Original article appeared in Benefits Canada.

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