Rewards For The Road

By Malcolm Fleschner

A good incentive reward program always takes into consideration the wants and needs of program participants. So instead of simply giving away the same award every year, savvy sales organizations try to keep rewards fresh and relevant to salespeople’s lives away from work.

According to a recent article in Potentials Magazine, one significant area incentive program designers are no longer ignoring is the time employees spend commuting between home and work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than 3.3 million Americans travel at least 50 miles to work. Spending that kind of time in the car or on the bus or train can drain a workforce. Today, many organizations are developing programs with rewards specifically targeted at making the daily commute a little less taxing.

Laura Wheeler, director of product marketing for WageWorks’ Center for Commuter Studies in San Mateo, CA, suggests employers investigate just how their employees find their way to work each day. “People have personal preference on how to use that time, with benefits to be captured from public transportation,” she says. Among those benefits are the time to read, listen to music, catch up on paperwork or even sleep. Suitable gift ideas might include bookstore gift cards, handheld gaming devices or the ever-popular iPod.

But what would benefit car-bound commuters? Wheeler suggests carpoolers might enjoy merchandise that offers greater opportunities for socializing, including trivia books, gourmet food baskets or daily doses of coffee on the company. For the solo flyer, a stored-value card for gas or coffee might be appreciated, or the company could spring for a month’s worth of E-Z pass for drivers living in areas where the daily commute takes a toll (literally).

Regardless of what is done to ease the daily grind for hard-working employees, Wheeler reminds managers that redeeming any gift should not be a burden. As with any incentive, convenience is the watchword. Otherwise, the program risks undermining what were presumably the best of intentions.