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The use of employee incentive programs remains steady in Canada, but many companies are giving rewards that employees don’t value.

Berkeley Payment Solutions’ 2014 Canadian Incentive Trends Survey finds that 69% of Canadian companies are using incentives and rewards to motivate their employees, with half saying their program budget remained the same in 2014.

Fifty-three percent of employers offer company-branded merchandise, while almost three-quarters (73%) use retail gift cards as incentives to motivate their employees.

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However, survey participants rank prepaid credit cards the highest when it comes to motivating employees. The survey results show that those polled prefer these prepaid cards two times more than retail gift cards and nine times more than merchandise.

“The incentive gap exists because recipients clearly want more choice and flexibility in the rewards they receive,” says Dave Eason, CEO of Berkeley, an incentive program manager in Canada for corporate MasterCard and Visa prepaid cards. (Berkeley ranked No. 66 on the 2014 PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.)

The survey results also indicate that today’s multi-generational workforce can be challenging for Canadian companies when choosing an incentive to motivate employees.

While 64% of those surveyed believe their programs take a multi-generational workforce into consideration, 53% find it somewhat difficult to motivate all age groups. Thirty-nine percent say the most difficult generational group to pick an appropriate incentive for is millennials.

Following are other findings from the survey:

  • Employee incentive and rewards programs are not just for big businesses in Canada, with 64% of respondents indicating they work for an organization with fewer than 500 employees;
  • Organizations from a wide spectrum of industries in Canada use employee incentives and rewards, with 70% of those polled indicating they are in the private sector;
  • Four out of five measure program success;
  • Retail gift cards are perceived as the most cost-effective incentive; and
  • Experiential special events or experiences such as concert tickets or sports events are perceived as the least cost-effective incentives.

“Our research over the past five years has shown that participant satisfaction continues to grow as a key measure of success for corporate incentive programs, yet Canadian companies are still offering traditional incentives that they don’t believe their employees want,” says Eason. “This is indicative of the incentive merchandise model that dominates the rewards space. It’s unlikely that administrators are getting the full benefit from their programs if the incentives they choose are not truly valued by their employees.”

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This article originally appeared at BenefitsCanada.com.

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