Thanks in large part to technology, globalization and changing values in younger generations, the workplace isn’t what it used to be. What motivates today’s employees is different from what motivated their predecessors, and employers tend to place more value on ensuring their people are motivated and happy. Studies show work/life balance perks like allowing employees to work remotely on occasion, unlimited vacation policies, and well-designed incentive and reward programs can increase employee happiness and productivity, and cut costs for your organization.

A study conducted by the International Society of Performance Improvement found that a well-designed and -executed incentive or reward program can improve performance by an average of 22 percent for individuals.

What does a “well-designed incentive or reward program” actually look like in today’s office? That’s evolving too. Gone are the days of an annual Christmas ham and a gold watch for 25 years of service. Now, it’s important to consider your employee population as you craft a rewards program.

It’s near impossible to choose a bulk gift that every employee will appreciate, and you don’t want your program budget going to the equivalent of a leg lamp or jelly-of-the-month club. According to a recent study by Incentives Magazine, 8 out of 10 employees report preferring gift cards over other incentives.

When you give a gift card, you’re giving your employees the freedom of choice. EML offers open loop gift cards that can be used anywhere Visa® or Mastercard® are accepted, so your employees can use your gift the way they want, when they want. Maybe they’ll take their family out to a nice dinner, buy something frivolous that they hadn’t budgeted for, put the balance toward an upcoming vacation, or just use it to pay a stressful bill. The choice is theirs.

If it makes sense for your company to offer a closed loop gift card that can only be used at certain locations, consider choosing retailers that represent fun and relaxation – sporting goods stores, movie theaters or restaurants. This lets employees know you care about them as people, not just as worker bees.

It’s also important to carefully consider when you give your employees gift cards. Depending on your work environment, gift-giving for specific holidays can be tricky. Not all your employees will celebrate the same religious holidays, and those based around the globe may celebrate differently, or at different times of year. To side-step any issues, consider rewarding employees on their birthday, at year end, or on their work anniversary. If you do have employees working around the globe, gift cards are an excellent option for them as well – EML offers gift cards in five different currencies, and our cards can be delivered and spent virtually.

Your employees are the most important part of your corporation. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their time and hard work by rewarding them in the way they prefer. To learn more about the benefits of giving employees gift cards for special occasions, read about EML’s incentive and rewards offerings.