Employee gift certificates have more uses than rewards and recognition! They’re also a great way to develop a pay-it-forward culture and build peer-to-peer appreciation.
We were inspired recently by a “pay it forward” story not out of HR but healthcare. A man whose grandson has a chronic kidney disease was able to pay forward his wish to give the boy a kidney.
“I was 64 at the time, and my grandson Quinn was 4. I know Quinn will eventually need a transplant, but by the time he’s ready, I’ll be too old to give him one of my kidneys,” the man said, according to the UCLA Health press release, “‘Gift certificate’ enables kidney donation when convenient and transplant when necessary.”
“So I approached UCLA and asked, ‘Why don’t I give a kidney to someone who needs it now, then get a voucher for my grandson to use when he needs a transplant in the future?’ And that’s just what we did,” he said.
This type of pay-it-forward system using gift certificates encourages altruism, whether people are giving kidneys or random acts of kindness— or just being helpful to a coworker.
Sharing kindness isn’t just the nice thing to do. It’s smart business. Read on for inspiration on how to use employee gift certificates to support workplace altruism and gratitude.
Employee Gift Certificates Empower Cooperation
When you give employee gift certificates for distribution to coworkers, you’re empowering your employees to spread gratitude and motivate each other! Employee gift certificates make it easy to build a pay-it-forward workplace culture:
- They’re transferable.
- They come in a wide variety of values.
- They’re easy to customize and personalize.
- They have a long “shelf life,” providing flexibility to givers and recipients alike.
- They’re easy to store — just stash in a desk drawer and hand out as needed.
- And, most importantly, they’re appreciated! Recipients love gift certificates because they’re practical, meaningful and easy to redeem.
Encouraging employees to pay it forward doesn’t just promote feel-good emotions — it has science-backed benefits. Altruism increases workplace wellness and happiness. It also hones the attitudes and skills necessary for business success, like sharing, mentorship, cooperation and clear communication.
Paying it forward leads to a “virtuous cycle of cooperation,” according to the Inc. article, “How Paying It Forward Can Help Your Company.”
When designing a “pay it forward” program with employee gift certificates, keep in mind that researchers have identified another type of workplace reciprocity, also worth encouraging among your employees: “reputation rewarding.” Reputation rewarding happens when a person who is known to pitch in receives more from co-workers than less helpful colleagues.
Sustainability and longevity are key to workplace programs that support paying it forward and reputation rewarding.
Building cultural altruism isn’t a one-shot deal. It requires investment over time, particularly from leaders who act as role models for employees. Research suggests, however, that once a “tipping point” is reached in the cycle of cooperation, employee participation will stay high as long as a baseline of company involvement is met.
Inc. identifies two companies that use employee rewards to support cooperation.
Southwest Airlines has an Agent of the Month award for employees who help others do great work. The airline says gratitude is a motivational tool between coworkers.
Google uses a “a peer-to-peer bonus system that empowers employees to express gratitude and reward helpful behavior with token payments.” Peer-to-peer bonus recipients get additional rewards that may only be paid forward to recognize a third employee.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a “corporate culture of giving,” according to TalentSpace blogger Sean Conrad. He cites author Adam Grant’s research into givers, takers and matchers. Grant believes that people generally fall into three categories:
- Givers go out of their way to help others, no strings attached.
- Takers try to take as much as possible from others.
- Matchers have a “tit-for-tat” mentality, giving only when they know it’ll be reciprocated.
Grant’s research shows that givers in the workplace are the highest performers and the most successful.
Good news: none of us is stuck in a category. Even if you think your workplace is currently full of takers and matchers — that can change!
“It’s important to recognize that we all have the capacity to ‘give’ and as a result, make our work environments richer, healthier and more productive,” Conrad writes.
Celebrate Everyday Gratitude for a Pay-It-Forward Culture
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