by Alex Palmer | October 27, 2015
While the global economy continues to slowly improve, this optimism is not reflected in a new survey of Canadian incentive programs. The annual "Canadian Incentives and Rewards Trends Study" finds the use of incentive programs at Canadian companies has dropped to 61 percent of businesses, from 69 percent last year.

The report, which draws on the responses of 500 employees and more than 1,100 HR professionals from across Canada, comes from prepaid payment solution provider Berkeley Payment Solutions, which has published the report every year for six years. In addition to the downward trend of incentive use, it found program administrators expressing concerns, with more than half of respondents (55 percent) saying that running incentive programs presents challenges. Specifically, 21.3 percent said "it's hard to measure ROI," while 10.1 percent pointed to shrinking budgets, and 8.6 percent cited employee dissatisfaction with the program.

Despite these challenges, Canadian firms continue to express support for incentive programs, with 82 percent of respondents saying that their corporate reward program is important to the organization's overall business. Ninety percent of employers say that engaging workers in the coming year is a management priority.

More than half (54 percent) of respondents say they measure program success based on direct feedback from participants. This was followed by employee performance (38 percent), employee retention (36 percent), and level of engagement in the program (34 percent). 

As far as types of rewards workers said they preferred the study found a strong tilt toward gift cards (perhaps predictably considering the report was commissioned by a prepaid-card company). Prepaid Visa and MasterCard were cited by 47 percent of administrators as creating the most motivation in workers, followed at a distant second by store gift cards, at 15 percent. Incentive travel (13 percent), special events (11 percent), and merchandise (7 percent) rounded out the top-five reward types.

The full report can be downloaded here.