Choosing a mobile rewards system

Talk to any HR specialist, and they’ll tell you that employee engagement is much more than simply offering rewards.

But in the same breath, they’ll agree that, done the right way, incentives can play a large role in keeping employees inspired and motivated. In just one example, 78% of employees surveyed by said that being recognised motivates them in their jobs.

(A caveat is that done the wrong way, incentives can be a powerful force for disengagement.)

“…done the right way”

Some of the attributes of effective incentive systems include:

  • Mobile-enabled: today’s workforce is less desktop computer-bound than ever before. The incentive scheme must be accessible via mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
  • Immediate gratification: the value of a small increment to a worker’s monthly salary is negligible; incentive rewards should be distinct and in the moment.
  • Choice of rewards: Choice is good; not all rewards appeal to all employees
  • Tax neutral: Rewards are NOT tax-free and there’s no point in giving an employee a reward only for a substantial portion to disappear in the form of tax.
  • Self-contained and easy to use
  • Budget-controlled: It should be possible to limit the amount of rewards to be allocated by use of monthly or annual budgets per manager or team.



View More:

The system should offer multiple communication channels to employees:

  • Some employees may not have Smart Phones; a USSD interface might be more appropriate for a lower-income workforce
  • Call center employees are often not allowed to have their mobile devices on them while at work for security reasons. A secure web-based user interface should be part of the system.


Immediate gratification

Immediacy is critical to effective rewards systems and includes:

  • Notification via in-app push or SMS.
  • The ability to redeem a reward (e.g. exchanging reward points for tangible benefits like airtime or vouchers).


Choice of rewards

Choosing a reward is fun; fun is an aspect of an incentive system that shouldn’t be underestimated.  Incentive systems often use points as a rewards currency that can be exchanged for tangible items such as airtime, vouchers or even cash.

Some systems cater for non-tangible rewards such as “coffee with the CEO”, while allowing such rewards to be swapped for donations to charity!

Tax neutrality

To achieve tax neutrality, the system must report the Rand value of rewards assigned during the month.

The payroll system then increments the employees’ salaries an amount sufficient to pay the tax that is due as a consequence of the rewards.

Self-contained and easy to use

We know of a company that implemented a manual incentives scheme; managers were allocated a budget for cash-incentives, but were required to email confirmation of awards to HR and Payroll.

Not unexpectedly there were cases where they forgot to do so and the unlucky employees were obliged to go back to their managers awkwardly having to remind them.


Incentives can form a significant portion of employee costs.  Whatever system is chosen, it should have:

  • A simple way of allocating budget to users
  • Easy to access reporting showing the budget used


Nice to have: peer to peer recognition

While the most important source of recognition is one’s boss, a significant number of surveyed employees emphasize the importance of recognition by their peers.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *