Playing Your Cards Right

Stored Value Cards can be powerful motivators in corporate safety programs.

MOST experts agree safety incentive programs can be effective tools for helping to motivate and encourage employees to achieve behavioral changes on the job. Most often, such programs are aimed at reaching multiple goals, such as:

  • Practicing safe job behavior.
  • Reducing accidents and injuries.
  • Attending and participating in company safety meetings.

The end goal is to achieve improved safety in the workplace and perhaps even realize savings on worker's compensation insurance costs.

One of the dilemmas encountered in designing successful corporate safety incentive programs, however, is that the administration of such programs can be very overwhelming, time consuming, and costly. Companies using merchandise or travel awards, for example, sometimes spend 40 to 60 percent of the budget on program administration, leaving them little funds to use as the reward. In these cases, the rewards don't match the actions companies want their employees to take, and the program will not have the desired results.

Additionally, if not planned correctly, incentives may seem too rewarding--and some employees may stop reporting accidents or incidents in order to get the prizes provided to incentivize them.

One of the most powerful and effective incentive rewards is the Stored Value GiftCard, which is pre-loaded with a particular incentive award value and is usable by award recipients just like a MasterCard or Visa debit card, for any purchases up to the face value of the card. The GiftCards are issued in preset denominations, usually ranging from $25 to $1,000. They are fully or partially customizable with the client's logo and/or program message for enhanced "trophy value."

The flexibility of GiftCards, along with their simple issuance, administration, and usage, has contributed to make them powerful motivational tools in safety incentive programs. They are easier to manage than cash-based programs but provide nearly the same flexibility to program participants (to buy whatever they desire at millions of locations worldwide).

Safer, More Personal
There is a long list of benefits for clients who use GiftCards for safety incentive programs:

  • More choices for redemption: GiftCards are universally accepted at more than 30 million retail locations worldwide.
  • Safer than cash: If the GiftCard is lost or stolen, the unspent amount can be replaced.
  • More personal than cash, checks, or gift certificates: The recipient's name is embossed on the GiftCard for a personalized touch.
  • Increased flexibility: GiftCards are available in any denomination from $25 up to $1,000 (certain issuers may offer GiftCards in even higher denominations).
  • Better program control: Unlike cash, GiftCards can easily be tracked and replaced if lost or stolen.
  • High trophy value: GiftCards can either be partially customized with a logo and/or program message. Fully customized Cards are available from certain issuers upon request.
  • Better corporate recognition: GiftCards may be issued with the standard issuer identification or may be customized with your own company's name and logo.
  • Enhanced corporate services: Most card issuers provide detailed transaction histories and dispute processing services for their GiftCard cardholders.
  • Detailed reporting: Monthly GiftCard activation and usage reports provide enhanced tracking, enabling clients to adjust their program rules and/or communication materials to increase participation. Custom reports also can provide clients a powerful tool to measure the return on investment for their safety program.

Safety Program Development Hints
To help you get started, here are a few tips to consider for setting up and running a successful safety incentive program.

1. Scrutinize your existing safety programs to decide whether integrating an incentive-based program into them would more effectively improve safety behavior.

2. Encourage managers to proactively support participation in a new incentive program to increase safety at the job site. Schedule meetings to discuss the issues involved and why integrating an incentive program would help reduce accidents and injuries and keep worker's compensation costs down.

3. Evaluate your existing incentive programs and see how each could effectively be combined with the safety program at your job site. Gather current injury and demographic information about employee safety and injuries at your job site, as well as for your industry.

4. Design measurable goals, such as reducing lost-time injuries by a specific percentage, attending safety meetings, obtaining additional safety-related education and certifications, or going for a specific length of time without an injury. Most safety programs are measured monthly or quarterly, because annual programs may be too far in the future to motivate employees.

5. Choose meaningful rewards that your employees will remember. They should be appealing, flexible, and easy to use. For a truly motivational program, it is recommended that award levels reach 3 to 5 percent of the employee's salary.

6. Keep your program exciting and enjoyable for your employees. Allow them to play an interactive role in the program through the use of surveys, meetings, company intranet, etc. Announce the winners in a public manner (newsletter, monthly meetings, annual awards luncheon, etc.) with a lot of fanfare, to encourage more participation. Use these public announcements as a forum to drive home your safety program's objectives and encourage further participation.

7. Openly communicate on a regular basis with your employees. Acknowledge them every time you spot a positive behavior change, and congratulate each safety "winner." Let them know you're keeping your eyes out for their progress. Keep them abreast of overall progress the company is making toward reaching its safety goals for the month or the year.

8. Evaluate your program at least quarterly to assess its effectiveness and ensure acceptable returns on your investment. Survey employees periodically to get their take on how the program is going.

Finding the Ideal Service Provider
It is important to work with the right service provider when setting up safety incentive programs. While many commercial banks offer Stored Value Cards, they don't provide the high level of service that specialized institutions such as incentive companies offer to clients. On the other hand, most incentive companies don't have the capability to issue, manage, and administer Stored Value Cards and will outsource these key functions to a bank.

The key to providing the program flexibility that clients need--while ensuring the ease of use that program participants want--is finding a service provider that has the card issuance and management capability, as well as incentive program expertise. The ideal service provider is the one that provides clients with the entire program management capability, not one that outsources key program elements. The right service provider also will give each client tailored statements and transaction histories that show such things as year-to-date totals, individual award totals, account balance information, and other such information. Some issuers even process Form 1099 data or reports for them to meet employee income tax requirements.

Safety incentive programs can be complex, but your service provider should be able to provide you a module to process claims, issue safety reward points, and track points by individual person, department, or other group. This high level of detail can be very beneficial when safety managers want to deploy extra motivational tools, such as using large program progress displays located throughout a plant. They have all the data they need, right at their fingertips.

This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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