Employee Incentives Beyond the Workplace

Posted by Training Magazine on August 08, 2008

By Christopher Johansen, President, Great Furniture 4Less

With economic uncertainty and rising prices, companies are finding themselves competing for not only sales and market share, but talented staffers as well. Employees, also feeling hard-pressed financially, tend to go with the best offer, leaving loyalty behind for better pay and benefits. In fact, a recent Gallup research study cited that 22 percent of employees today leave a company for this reason.

Corporate retention strategy now requires creativity to keep employees engaged, productive and loyal. But, what benefits will play a key factor in attracting new talent and keeping current employees happy? What benefits make a company good – or even great-- to work for?

One option is to consider “up-scaling” your company’s incentive and benefits programs, creating options for more luxury home-based products. Christopher Johansen of Great Furniture 4Less says, “Offering employees a take-home benefit that they can visually appreciate every day is the key to long-term employee satisfaction. Go beyond perks that are simply additional tools to increase their productivity--such as mobile phones, laptops and company cars--by offering life-changing, morale boosters.”

Another possibility is to consider offering discount programs for big-ticket items--such as electronics, home furnishings and outdoor living products—that employees may not normally be able to afford. These items also serve as a constant reminder to your employees of their hard work--and their company’s appreciation--all year long.

This is the key to making a good company a great company with loyal and satisfied employees throughout the years.


Posted by Leo Jakobson on June 10, 2008

I came across an interesting little tidbit about an incentive supplier recently while surfing the Web. It seems a former British Navy officer was recently reunited with the gold Bulova watch he dropped. From the deck of the HMS Repulse. Into Gibraltar Harbor. In 1941. It was still ticking when workers dredging the harbor found it. In 2007.

Because then-Lieutenant Teddy Bacon had reported his loss, the workers were eventually able to trace him and return the watch. Now 89, Bacon reportedly told Britian’s Daily Mail, “'To say I was stunned could be considered a major understatement … Now I wear it every day and it keeps perfect time, even after all those years in the water. It is absolutely excellent and I consider it a long-lost friend.”

And for the record, Lieutenant Bacon nearly suffered the same fate as his watch. On Dec. 10, 1941, the World War I-era battlecruiser was struck by several Japanese torpedoes and sank. According to the BBC, 513 of its crew lost their lives.

Talking About Talk

Posted by Alex Palmer on April 03, 2008

At this year's IMRA conference, getting the word out about incentives was a recurring theme. It could be because this was my first time at the conference that translating the message of incentives for the uninitiated stood out for me. But even so, it seemed to be on the minds of many. During Sunday's "Orientation to the Industry", IMRA's outgoing President, Gary Slavonic said simply "If the CEO doesn't know why I'm there, I'm out of there." That notion got a response from the audience, some of who were new to their positions and were learning to define their role, sometimes in contrast to retail suppliers or other areas of merchandise sales.

A similar note was sounded by Rick Blabolil, president of Marketing Innovators International during the "State of the Industry" roundtable. Talking about reaching out to new customers, he urged suppliers and reps to speak in the clients' terms, not the industry's. Attendees might know what you mean in talking about "SKUs" or can tell the difference between a "jobber" and a "distributor" (I'm still unclear on the distinction), but using such jargon might just alienate industry outsiders.

So industry members must distinguish ourselves as different from other types of merchandise suppliers, but in terms that are not too different.

And all the talk about talk is being put into action. IMRA's incoming President, Joe Gabler announced on the conference's final day that an Education Committee and a Technology and Publications Committee had been created to spread the word about the use and benefits of incentive merchandise both within the industry and to all those outsiders still unsure what incentives are all about.

If you give a tech geek an iPod...

Posted by Anne Marie on January 09, 2008

So after over two and a half years of writing about an industry that I've never had any personal use for, I actually found myself at a Mexican restaurant suggesting to a family friend, the head of a very small, but successful tech company, that he give his employee something more personal than a cash bonus.

This friend was quick to respond that cash is what his employee wants, his employee is a young guy with a family. Even though he's extremely valued and well-paid a cash bonus is just what everybody wants.

'What I've heard,' I ventured to tell him candidly, 'is that people say they want cash but studies have been done that show that merchandise makes them happier. Also, chances are, a cash bonus will be used for daily expenses and won't have much of an impact on him.'

'Well what should I get him then?'

'Does he have an iPod?'


'Is he into movies and music?'

'Yeah, he's a really hip, cool guy.'

'Well maybe you should get him an iPod. They're engravable too.'

'Yeah, I know.'

At Christmas, I was astounded to hear that this family friend took my advice and gave his employee an iPod, with an engraving that thanked him for a year of great service with the company. I've never put the theory of incentives to practice and was very, very, anxious to know if they really matter. His employee was extremely touched and replied with an email expressing how great it is to work there. As for the iPod, it's like clay in the hands of an artist. Apparently tech guys know how to customize these devices in ways that go way beyond creating a special playlist for the gym. Now this family friend wants to make all of his employee bonuses tech-themed incentives because he says, even if it's something that's mainly for personal enjoyment, in their business it can also be used for work.

'Really? Even an iPod?'

'Hell yeah--even an iPod!'

Any chance for iPhone in your incentive stocking this year?

Posted by Anne Marie on September 11, 2007

Holly In no less than 74 days, Apple Inc. claims to have sold 1 million of its new touch-screen mobile phones. This according to a Reuters news report from yesterday.

This latest display of consumer love for wireless phone gadgets greatly adds to the mounting pressure on the incentive industry to find a way to get past the red tape of service providers and carriers, and open the floodgates to what is sure to be one of the biggest categories in incentives since the flat-screen TV.

Just the other day, a reader contacted this publication in search of a supplier for Blackberry or PDAs for a promotional giveaway. Sadly, I had to tell him there is none. Doing so reminded me of when a childhood friend tried to convince me that you can't ask Santa Claus for a stereo because Santa's Workshop only made wooden toys. I immediately explained that that wasn't true, that Santa Claus sent his helpers to stores for any products the elves couldn't make.

So having just told this reader that the great big toy workshop known as the incentive industry doesn't distribute smart phones, made me wonder if his next move would be to buy direct from a wireless store. If he was looking to buy in bulk for a giveaway, probably not. But as an incentive reward, maybe he will, because afterall, when there's one special toy that everybody wants, anything else seems like a lump of coal.


Electronics and Loving It

Posted by A.E. Smith on May 03, 2007

Tv Americans love electronics, the newer and shinier the better. For more evidence to that effect, check out this recent report, "Digital America 2007," released by the Consumer Electronics Association. We spent $145 billion on electronics in 2006, a 13 percent increase over 2005.The study includes some prosaic statistics--92 percent of U.S. households have a television, 62 percent have a digital camera--to the more surprising--25 percent have already switched to HDTV. The study also taps electronics accessories as the category showing the most growth, and keep an eye on DVR sales. Of course, not everyone thinks electronics are all that and a bag of chips.

Has Plasma Passed its Prime?

Posted by A.E. Smith on April 19, 2007

Panasonic_th103pz600 For some time, the rivalry between LCD and plasma has looked neck and neck. LCDs are easier to handle, but until recently were more expensive; plasma wins out on picture quality, but until recently had some performance issues. Like Greek gods, the big names in consumer electronics have lined up on either side of the line, with Sony squarely backing LCD, while Panasonic and LG have thrown their weight behind plasma. Both camps have engaged in death-defying price drops in a headlong drag race to claim the title of dominant technology. (For more of our coverage on the debate click here or here.)

But this month, one side swerved. According to retail tracking by The NPD Group, revenue from plasma TVs was down 16 percent in February from 2006 figures, generating $181 million compared to last year's $216 million, despite a 30 percent increase in unit sales. Overall television sales were down 18 percent, but by contrast, LCD sets showed a resounding 58 percent increase in dollar volume.

The drastic price cuts are the root of the problem and the deficit is hitting some bottom lines hard: LG reported a net loss of $132.5 million thanks in large part to a plasma shortfall, and executives expect the same results this quarter. The Wall Street Journal reports that this may spur LG's conversion to LCD through its partnership with Philips Electronics.

Not everyone has given up hope on plasma just yet: Reviewers are gushing over Panasonic's new behemoth 103-incher (pictured). And apparently they still make pretty good incentive rewards in Malta.

[Image courtesy of Engadget.]

Bunnie's Picks: Be My Valentine

Posted by A.E. Smith on January 31, 2007

Bunnies_picks_vertCome mid-February, love is in the air, and who could use a little show of affection more than your overworked, under-rewarded employees? Why not send a love note to your staff (albeit an innocuous, politically correct, non-sexually-harassing love note) in the form of food or flowers? They may channel that love right back into results, and what's more lovely than that? With that in mind, here are a few V-day deals.

Gdbigbrownie_1Geoff & Drews Signature Giant Brownie: This supersized version of the company's award winning chocolate chunk brownie with win hearts if not minds. Two pounds of deliciousness should be enough to share with the whole team. $34

Lake Champlain Assorted Chocolate Hearts Gift Bag: A mixed bag of mouth-watering dark, milk and white chocolate hearts, all made from Lake Champlain's high quality, all natural goods. $19


FTD Winter Tulip Bouquet: Roses may be the signature flower of this holiday, but this tulip bouquet is a better way to brighten up the office. $49.99-69.99


Red Envelope Valentine Caramel Apples: Want to give a treat that's a little bit different from the prosaic box of chocolates? This gift of a crisp Giant Fuji apple coated in chocolate and crunchy decorative sprinkles will stand out. Available in four flavor combinations. $25

New from CES

Posted by Leo Jakobson on January 11, 2007

The Consumer Electronics Show wraps up today in Las Vegas, and as usual, there are plenty of new goodies to whet the appetites of your tech-lusting incentive program redeemers.

Yes, there were a lot of HDTVs released, but you’ll have to wait for Incentive’s March feature story on HDTV’s to learn about those. In the meantime, here are some devices for the HDTV owner who wants to take advantage of that superior picture quality, from a format-war-defeating high-def DVD player to a trio of new HD camcorders:Hdrhc7_3q_v1_med_1

Continue reading "New from CES" »

This is your iPod calling...

Posted by A.E. Smith on January 09, 2007

Apple_iphoneApple Computers (or Apple Inc, as they're now calling themselves) announced two major product launches at its annual Macworld Conference and Expo today in San Francisco [thanks to SFGate's Dan Frost for his minute-to-minute coverage]: the long awaited iPhone, a combination iPod and cell phone, and AppleTV, a device for watching downloaded movies and video on a bigger screen.

Is the iPhone the ringer that will finally break the unofficial taboo against offering phones in incentive programs? It's certainly a lustworthy prize, offering sychronization among the user's e-mail, music, movies, photos, favorite Web sites and more with a touch-sensitive screen and built-in 5 megapixel camera, all in a package that's thinner (just 11.6 millimeters) and better looking than the phone in your pocket now. The iPhone will be offered exclusively through Cingular and, pending FCC approval, could begin shipping in June.

The Apple TV should be a good fit for merchandise programs. It has built-in WiFi and enough memory to store up to 50 hours of video. It's set to start shipping in February. Apple also should be offering a wider selection of movie downloads through iTunes, thanks to a new partnership with Paramount.

We'll have more on these and other multitasking gadgets in the Jan/Feb issue of Potentials, so stay tuned.