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How to successfully choose and implement an employee discounts scheme

John Stevens | November 20, 2019

The benefits of offering an employee discounts scheme are numerous and well-documented, and businesses are increasingly seeing the value of thinking beyond a straightforward, salary-only compensation package. Indeed, employee benefits in general have never had such an important and central role to play.

However, regardless of a company’s good intentions, we find that there are some all too common pitfalls that can affect the overall impact that an employee discounts scheme can – and should – deliver.

Here we highlight some of the most important things to watch out for when working towards the successful design and implementation of an effective employee discounts scheme.

Choosing the right platform

By implementing an employee benefits programme, you are making an investment, and – as with any investment – you want to maximise your returns. In this case, the best way to get value for money is to focus on engagement levels. We often find that businesses assume that once a scheme is live, employees will just naturally use it, as they will want to take advantage of whatever discounts are on offer. However, it is not always this simple and the benefits programmes that work best are those that are provided via a platform that has been carefully chosen, taking into account a number of factors, including:

  • The type of discounts and offers available
  • The technology it utilises
  • The customer support options provided

Taking some time to reflect on what is most appropriate for your particular business and workforce will make a significant difference to subsequent engagement levels.

For example, consider the shopping behaviours you are catering for. Are staff more likely to shop online or in traditional stores? And how will they want to access the discounts available? With younger, ‘digital native’ workers, instant access is likely to be an expectation rather than a ‘nice to have’, and anything more arduous could lead to them simply not bothering. As a result, mobile apps and online portals are the access method now most commonly offered by providers. Some will even flag high street discounts when an employee walks past the relevant store or provide personalised push notifications based on shopping preferences.

However, it is also important to consider other demographics among your employees. Not everyone has easy access to a computer in their day-to-day roles and online-only platforms could end up alienating parts of your workforce. Most businesses will find that they are catering to a whole host of different shopping and access preferences, so choosing a flexible and adaptable platform is likely to deliver the best engagement levels, and therefore return on investment.

Choosing the right discounts

There are a number of things to consider when choosing the benefits that you will offer your staff and, again, we often find that businesses are missing a trick by underestimating the variety of options on offer. It is not as simple as looking at the brands and shops you want to provide discounts to; you also need to consider the forms that these discounts can take. For example, you could provide promotional codes or e-vouchers which offer discounts at the point of purchase; gift cards that can help staff save money on a weekly shop but require pre-paying; or cashback which is applicable to online stores only.

And it doesn’t stop there. Benefits, like most things, experience trends. What people value changes over time, and it’s important to understand what is currently most appealing and relevant to your staff (and to acknowledge that this may be different to the preferences of senior management teams).

For example, we have seen a notable growth in wellbeing-focused benefits in recent years, as well as lifestyle and luxury offerings. Concierge services may once have been the exclusive domain of the very wealthy, but they have become increasingly accessible to all, and as a result, often form a key part of comprehensive benefits packages. We have all become busier as we attempt to juggle our demanding work and personal lives. Businesses are therefore discovering the benefits of offering staff a dedicated concierge service – supporting them with anything from booking travel arrangements, sourcing tickets for social events or managing domestic tasks.

Importantly, concierge services can be tailored according to what will be most appropriate for workers at all levels. There is little value in only offering high-end luxury services such as arranging private air travel when for 99% of the workforce this is not relevant to their needs. If you know that staff are more likely to appreciate support arranging tickets to sporting events or help with childcare arrangements then this is what should be on offer.

Implementing the programme

Even when you are confident that you have chosen the most appropriate platform for your organisation’s discounts scheme, there is another common pitfall that many businesses fall into – and that is not planning its implementation effectively. One area in particular that is often neglected is communication. It’s all well and good having a fantastically accessible scheme full of attractive offers that you know your staff will love, but if many of them don’t know it exists – or exactly how to access it – the value of the programme is significantly limited.

The launch phase is therefore worth spending some time preparing for. Consider who would be best-placed within your organisation to champion and promote the forthcoming employee discounts scheme – and ideally involve people from all levels of the organisation. Think about which channels you will use to spread the word – and again, ensure you cover all bases. If some staff do not have regular access to PCs, promoting it solely via the staff intranet won’t work. Think about posters, staff handbooks, SMS messages and company-wide or tailored team-wide presentations as well as online channels. Developing some case studies that highlight how people can benefit from the scheme is a great tactic that can really bring it to life and help people to engage.

Finally, make sure you have a training strategy in place before you launch. Training should never be an after-thought that is only offered once employees have tried to work it out for themselves. If you provide training proactively and at the appropriate time, it seriously minimises the risk that people will struggle and give up before they’ve even started.

Implementing an employee discounts scheme is ultimately a pretty straightforward exercise. By being mindful of some of the areas that can sometimes trip businesses up, you can ensure that you get the best value out of it – and, importantly, so can the people it is designed to benefit: your employees.

To learn more about this area, download our guide.  

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Topics: Employee Discounts