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Taking employee rewards online? Here’s how to adapt your HR tech stack

What benefits will you offer employees in the post-pandemic world?

MaryLou Costa


Photo by XPS on Unsplash

Unleash Your People The days of team bonding over paintball or ping pong seem like a distant memory and may be challenging to recreate in a post-pandemic world. So what does virtualizing employee incentives look like beyond the now-clichéd team drinks on Zoom?

  • Demand for online rewards and recognition platforms is soaring by more than 50%.
  • HR teams must adapt their tech stack to meet growing demand.
  • A look at what platforms are boosting employee engagement and motivation.

As companies like Lloyd’s bank in the UK cut office space to accommodate a hybrid workforce, and US tech giants Salesforce and Dropbox go virtual-first, it’s clear it’s not just the workspace that needs rethinking — but how employee rewards are delivered in a still largely virtual world.

The demand for online rewards and recognition platforms is said to have soared by over 50% during the pandemic, as businesses came under pressure to maintain morale and culture.

So what platforms are facilitating new, engaging ways to keep teams motivated, who’s using them and how are they faring? 

employee shout-outs redeemed for real-world rewards

Featuring a game show-style live leaderboard and in-house virtual company currencies, Bonusly is one platform that has made Select Software Reviews “Top 13 Best Employee Recognition Platforms in 2021” for its ability to “increase employee engagement and retention through employee shout-outs tied to company values and redeemable for real-world rewards.”

Employees at Typeform, for example, can gift each other “Typecoins” through Bonusly, which they can spend on things like Amazon or Starbucks vouchers — two of the platform’s most popular rewards, said Bonusly marketing manager Ben Travis. Bonusly users recognized each other 5.4 million times in 2020 compared to 4 million times in 2019 — a 34% increase.

Of the 2,000 companies that use the platform, some of its most prolific users are employment marketplace ZipRecruiter, whose employees have recognized each other over 250,000 times, with a consistent 90% monthly participation rate. Yogurt brand Chobani saw a significant increase in its “Great Places to Work” survey results just a few months after implementing Bonusly, according to Travis.

While automating team occasions like birthdays and anniversaries through the platform can give people leaders more time to focus on, well, people, it’s a spotlight on wellness and giving back that’s really driving growth, Travis said.

“People want to know they’re taken care of and have access to flexible schedules – offering things like time off that actually gets used, encouraging family leave, and a thoughtful wellness program. People also want to know their work has purpose and positively impacts the world. In the last year, we saw a 4.5x increase in charitable donations through our platform,” he reveals.

Employee Wellness: driving engagement and uptake

On-demand wellness benefits are also a key trend at pension management app PensionBee, which uses the Perkbox digital incentive platform to reward an employee base that has grown by nearly 50% over the past year.

Free home workouts, online medical services, meditation and mindfulness resources, as well as discounted groceries, are all proving “extremely popular,” said PensionBee’s head of talent, Emily Tribe.

Employees self-managing discounts with retail partners have also been popular, alongside uptake of an AI-personalised professional development program. 

“Logging on each morning and coming to work has been one of the few constants. Agile and flexible benefits through an online platform have ensured our colleagues feel supported, valued, and motivated,” comments Tribe.

Emerging platform Heka has even built its whole offering around choose-your-own wellness treats for employees, covering mental health, physical health, and lifestyle, including nutritious food to order, with algorithmically personalized recommendations. Such is the demand that Heka has over the past six months tripled the number of companies and users it works with.

“Employees worry about what their managers or colleagues think if they take time out for health-related activities, so resources and time must be made available to encourage people to focus on their wellbeing, like assigning wellness days off, having flexible working hours, and hosting team virtual fitness classes,” advizes Stephanie Newport-Booth, Heka’s co-founder and chief operating officer.

One of Heka’s biggest customers is personal finance website MoneySupermarket. It previously struggled with poor employee engagement in its benefits program and making rewards relevant, inclusive, and interesting to all. 

Heka designed a system that automatically ensured everyone had equal access to the wellness budget and could access their preferred benefit at a time which fitted them. As a result, Money Supermarket saw a 600% increase in employee engagement from October 2019 to January 2020. 

Thinking less about tech, more about impact

Investing in a benefits platform is one thing, but getting the best out of it is another. Bonusly’s Travis recommends tieing incentives not just to individuals’ preferences but to company values and leveraging them to encourage value-based behavior.

Ben Eubank, author of Artificial Intelligence for HR, elaborates that behavior is a key success metric for virtual incentives.

“Ask any talent leader and they will tell you changing behaviors is the hardest part of the job, but it’s the part that can have the most impact,” he says.

When looking for a system to support virtual incentives, Eubank recommends HR leaders consider what behaviors they’re trying to drive, whether the incentive is properly connected to that behavior, and how they can prove success.

This makes working with an incentives platform less about tech, and more about impact — keeping teams on form even as they continue to work apart.

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