FinTech Payments

Gift Cards Become Employee COVID Vaccination Incentives

February 25, 2021 at 09:03AM

The vaccines are here, and while rolling them out has presented some logistical hurdles across the country, employers have been ramping up efforts to get their respective workforces vaccinated in the bid to return to (some semblance of) normal. Some have even extended financial rewards to do so. Among them are Aldi, Trader Joe’s and McDonald’s.

Of course, vaccine supply and delivery have been a challenge. Beyond logistics, as Nat Salvione, chief commercial officer of Tango Card, told PYMNTS, there are a number of challenges that confront employers in that effort. From an employer’s standpoint, one key question is whether to make the vaccines mandatory for workers or not. “For the most part, it’s definitely within an employer’s right to make it mandatory,” he said.

Of course, the ultimate goal of any vaccination program is to get enough coverage in place to stop the virus’ spread so that employees (and their customers) can be healthy in the workplace. But there may still be some hesitation on the part of employees to get the shots — perhaps they are in a middle ground where there’s a “gap” in coverage, or maybe they are wrestling a bit with uncertainty, perhaps procrastinating in making the appointment.

An incentive, on its own, probably won’t be enough to spur individuals to overcome deep personal, ethical or religious grounds of objection to getting vaccines. In other cases, however, financial incentives can work, offering “an extra motivation” to get vaccinated, said Salvione — and gift cards are a good vehicle for those incentives. But there’s a balancing act with the incentive itself, he noted, a sweet spot that must be eyed. If the incentive is too high, it could be seen as punitive to those who are objecting to the vaccine. Set the incentive too low, and it may come across as insulting or seem that the employer is being cheap.

Based on Tango Card’s conversations with its own client companies, Salvione maintained that a gift card range of $25 to $50 has proven effective. While some employers might like to reinforce the company’s branding with merchandise or apparel and other companies might opt for cash, he noted that gift cards represent the “best of both worlds.” They have monetary value but also some brand affiliation. Salvione pointed to the fact that over the past several years, gift cards have proven to be the most favored gifting option for the holidays. A temporary “boost” in the paycheck may not be as memorable, he contended.

In contrast, studies have shown that among employees who receive a gift card from their workplace, a majority of them will remember “forever where they got it and what they spent the gift card on.” In this way, said Salvione, the gift card reinforces the company’s intention and the “feedback loop” for the incentivized vaccination.

Additional Advantages 

There are additional advantages to gift cards as an incentive. Digital delivery means they can be dispersed to workers with speed and security, requiring only an email address. A number of verticals are actively mulling the financial incentive’s role in accelerating vaccinations — especially retailers and restaurants, where staff and customers interact continuously.

“In the best-case scenario, people are self-motivated to get vaccinated, but it’s also in the company’s best interest to be able to tell the public, ‘hey, our employees have been vaccinated and they’re returning to work, and you can shop here with confidence,’” Salvione said. “That’s a great message.”

He told PYMNTS that the company is maintaining a vaccination incentive “guide” for its customers. The guide takes into account some of the issues any employer should consider, such as labor laws and working with employee relations groups in the event that workers are unionized. “It’s definitely within the company’s right to mandate vaccination, but it’s maybe not the cleanest way to do it,” noted Salvione. “We feel an incentive-based approach is the best.”

He predicted that on the other side of the pandemic, we’ll see firms incentivizing employees to adopt other healthy behaviors, such as getting their annual flu shots and taking other proactive health measures.  “We already see a number of companies that find it economically beneficial, but are also helping their employees to feel more engaged and happier at work by offering small incentives to exercise, to take walks, to quit smoking and maintain their medication regimens,” Salvione told PYMNTS. “It benefits the company when the employees are healthy, happy and engaged. And I think we’ll only see this increase in the coming years.”

Gift Cards Become Employee COVID Vaccination Incentives …

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