An employee discounts program can be a powerful and engaging employee benefit. In fact, it’s often one of the most valued benefits to many employees in many organisations. However, as with any benefit, the effectiveness is only as good as how it’s developed and communicated, both at launch and on an ongoing basis.
Get this right, and you’ve got yourself a benefit that will be low cost, low effort and high value — a winning combination!
But get it wrong and you’ll have a benefit which is under-utilised or even worse, not used at all.
So how do you get it right, how do you make your corporate discounts program as good as it can be? We all make mistakes, I know I’ve made my share during my over 20 years as an HR professional, so in part one of this two-part post (yes, there’s that much to say!), let me share with you some mistakes or stumbles that are commonly made:
Picking the wrong partner
The mistake: As with anything, not all providers are the same, having different pricing models, different relationships with retailers, and different ways of doing things. A common mistake is to jump into picking a discount provider without making sure that you’re picking one that is right for you — for your company and for your employees. Remember, if your employees aren’t happy with the discount benefit and platform, who are they going to complain to and about? Not the provider but you!
Here's my tip: The best way to select the right discounts provider/partner is by conducting a robust request for proposal (RFP) process. This makes sure that you select them based on key performance indicators (KPIs), and not based on instinct or by what you have heard from others. Some examples of KPIs are the product (e.g mix and reach of retailers), the technology platform, the customer support provided (both for you as the administrator and for employees) and the cost. If you use this process to help you pick a provider that’s right for you, you’ll end up with a partner that will work for you and your company in both the short and long term.
Not addressing the ‘basics’
The great thing about a discounts program is that it offers so much choice and variety, which is great, but with all this choice companies sometimes forget to address the basics.
When I say the basics, these are the questions about your company and your employees that you need to consider and address, to set your benefit up for success and not failure. A few examples:
For your company:
Which retailers should not be included in the platform, e.g. are there any competitors that you want to exclude? Are there are any retailers that you as a business don't believe in or support?
For your employees:
Do you have the right retailers and products to support your employees based on differences in age, disposable income, locations, etc.?
Do you have the right mix of products based on how your employees shop, e.g online versus reloadabale cards, versus Cashback, etc?
Here's my tip: The basics should be addressed during the RFP process, making sure that your provider can support the needs of your company and your employees. Likewise, once you select your provider, have your goals in mind as you begin implementing new benefits so you’re continually meeting the needs of all of your employees.
Not considering the "why"
Have you ever rolled out a new benefit and realised that you weren’t exactly sure what you were trying to achieve? You know it’s a good idea to have a discounts platform, everyone has one, but you haven’t really thought through exactly why you’re putting it in place at your company. You get so wrapped up in the ‘doing’ that you don’t spend time thinking about the "WHY."
As Simon Sinek talks about in his book "Start With WHY," we need to always start by asking the important question WHY — “Knowing your WHY is not the only way to be successful, but it is the only way to maintain long lasting success and have a greater blend of innovation and flexibility.”
Here's my tip: The best way to answer the question "why" is by setting objectives. There’s a lot of ways to do this, but the one which I’ve found to be the most effective over the years is the SMART approach. I covered some tips on writing SMART objectives in a previous post.
Not giving yourself enough time
A discounts programme can be put in place quite quickly, in fact my colleagues in the implementation team at Reward Gateway say that you can do it as quickly as 2 weeks. However, this can only happen if you give yourself enough time to do the work which is required of you and your company. If you don’t, you’ll slow the process down or in the worst case scenario, delay the launch of the benefit.
Here's my tip: Make sure that you discuss and lay out formal assignments and tasks for your team, including how decisions will be made. Ask questions now in the beginning (for instance, how to handle new hires), and answer these as a team, so your implementation process will be smoother and you’ll have a much better chance of meeting your timelines. If you don’t sort it out at the start then you’ll be slowed down going back and forth making these key decisions. This step should be followed not just at implementation, but throughout the ongoing running of your discount program. Take the time upfront and you’ll save time in the end.
Next up, we’ll explore a few more hiccups I’ve seen during the next phase of your discounts program: The actual launch.
Debra is the co-author of "Build It: The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement," which she wrote with Reward Gateway Founder, Glenn Elliott. She's a Rewards guru, having over 20 years experience as a rewards leader, speaker, teacher and a frequent contributor to the Reward Gateway blog.
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