A pat on the back

Staff commitment is especially critical in the tough economic conditions that schools are facing today as teachers continue to work in a continually stressful environment, sometimes on low pay. Retaining key teaching staff is therefore more important than ever. The most successful schools are those that worry about motivating their staff members as much as they worry about delighting the pupils and their parents.
Whilst it may be tempting for schools to think they can save money by cutting the incentives budget, it is actually a false economy. A school is its teachers. Poor staff performance can therefore directly impact students. Schools and education establishments must therefore provide rewards to incentivise and motivate their teachers to boost commitment and confidence and sustain morale. The stronger the focus and commitment from a team of teachers, the more likely the school will accomplish the results it is aiming to achieve, and more.
Our latest results showed that like-for-like corporate sales of gift cards and vouchers were up by 5.56 per cent in the B2B market for the first quarter of 2014. This demonstrates that employers, including educational establishments, are witnessing the benefits of rewarding hard-working teachers with gift cards and vouchers as part of staff incentive or reward schemes.

Rewarding staff
Traditionally schools and parents have rewarded staff by giving them chocolates or ‘bottle of something’ at Christmas. These gifts may be nice, but are not necessarily memorable or very motivating. Certainly the bottle of something gets noticed, but it can often be unappreciated and just dumped in a kitchen cupboard. Teachers are notably better motivated when they have the ability to choose their rewards themselves. A series of smaller rewards, handed out more frequently, can be used one at a time, or accumulated to make a larger, more significant purchase of something they may not normally consider buying for themselves. This is a real gift and certainly makes the teacher feel valued.
At every school, there will always be a variety of personalities within a staff room, so when recognising achievement and hard work, it is important to reward staff appropriately with a personalised gift that they will value. Demonstrating appreciation of an individual’s different tastes and brand preferences can have a big impact on their professional performance.

Bonus culture
Cash bonuses are one of the more traditional ways teachers are rewarded by the schools they work for. Usually, this bonus arrives months later included in their payslip and can be overlooked, or swallowed up within their day-to-day living expenses. Schools should not just give extra rewards in a pay packet as not only does the teacher pay tax on it, but giving a gift card or voucher provides added value that gives the employee something special that they can only spend on themselves.

A personal gift
Gift cards and vouchers are a great way to give a personal gift to an employee without running the risk of them not liking your choice or buying the wrong thing. There is no point in giving a present as an incentive for motivation that they already have or something that they really dislike or will never use.
The variety of gift cards and vouchers available on the market means that, if an employer can select the right gift card for each employee, the reward gesture can be inspiring and motivating to the individual. School boards should encourage parent associations to reward teachers at the end of term by collectively coming together and putting money towards a voucher or gift card.
So that staff members can be thoughtfully distinguished from one another, it might be better to choose one that has a wide range of choices and products, such as a department store voucher. Perhaps if one member of staff regularly eats out, they could use their gift card for a meal with friends, whereas another individual with a passion for handbags could indulge it by spending their reward at a high street fashion store. This makes it a real treat for the receiver to choose their own reward and spend the gift voucher as they wish. Vouchers do not have to just be about shopping either, but could be about an experience or activity closely tailored to that individual’s preferences. These can give teachers the opportunity to do something special which is outside their work, such as relaxing at a spa, or spending time with their family.
Teachers can also be rewarded with vouchers for extracurricular activity, such as a theatre visit or sports, which can be an unofficial way of awarding over-time. There are also “one for all” or multi-store gift vouchers that can provide an even wider choice.

Advantages of rewarding staff
Rewarding staff with gift cards and vouchers can be very easy to manage for administration staff within schools, as this type of gifting is easy to organise and facilitate. They can pre-plan and buy vouchers and cards in stores or via various web sites; whilst they also have the last-minute option of giving a gift ‘on the day’, by utilising the digital methods now available.
Ultimately, vouchers and gift cards can be a great way to improve staff performance and create a stable and loyal workplace, leading to the overall success of the school. It is therefore important that employers keep it fresh and do not let it become a predictable occurrence.
It is important to remember the ultimate aim – to recognise both the individual and that individual’s efforts. Finding the right gift card or voucher from the right place, for the right person, can be the biggest motivator and really show your staff you care.

Further information

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