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50 Best Companies to Watch 2022

Danni Rush, Virgin Incentives COO: “From sales incentives for high flyers to recognition awards for the most valuable workers out there, we’ve got the rewards that get people talking- whether you have 10 employees or 10,000”

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In the highly competitive world we live in, employees are often overworked and overlooked. For any organization, no matter which industry they serve, it is very important to maintain morale because it will drive the employees to work harder for the company. It is a well-known fact that productivity plays a major role in a company’s success. Productivity will certainly drive your business, but what will drive your employees? Incentives are a great way to keep your employees motivated and make them do their job to the best of their ability. When you offer something that they can achieve when they reach a target, they will have something to look forward to.

Globally there are various companies that provide excellent incentive-related services, but Virgin Incentives stands out from the rest. The company helps businesses in both UK and US to create a thriving employee culture with engagement, loyalty, and performance at its heart. For employees, it’s always a great feeling to be recognized, valued, and rewarded – Virgin Incentives make that happen with flexible solutions based on an unrivaled range of experiential rewards, gift cards, and eVouchers. From culinary tours to once-in-a-lifetime fighter jet flights, if you’re looking to reward your US employees & customers with a wonderful new incentive, look no further than Virgin Incentives. The company offers more than 2100 experiences across the US, and these never expire. Virgin Incentives takes pride in itself for offering people new experiences that they can enjoy with friends and family whenever it suits them.

In conversation with Danni Rush, COO of Virgin Incentives

Q. Walk us through the journey of the company right from its beginning to the point where it unwaveringly stands today.

Our journey started as Cloud 9 Living; it was a family-run business offering consumers various experiences across different states. The experience categories included adventure, driving, flying, getaways, tours & sightseeing, spa, and water-based activities. After 15 years of Cloud 9 setting the bar for experiences, we acquired the company, and as part of the Virgin family, we rebranded Cloud 9 Living to Virgin Experience Gifts in the US. From Hotels and Holidays to Voyages and Virgin Galactic, we’re so proud to add Virgin Experience Gifts to the list of remarkable Virgin companies operating stateside. With coast-to-coast coverage, people can now find experience gifts at the ready! We communicated the exciting announcement to all our customers and aligned our US team, partners, and processes to those from our UK market, where we have been operating since 1988 and are the market leader in gift experiences. In line with the Virgin spirit of quality and innovation, we launched our US B2B arm, Virgin Incentives. We work with corporate businesses within the US and enable firms to gift experience days to their employees and customers. Whether firms are looking to incentivize their customers or employees, create a service award program for their teams, increase engagement across their entire organization, or just want to say - thanks, Virgin Incentives is here to help with all things reward & recognition.

Q. Unengaged employees are less likely to participate in incentive programs. How can we make the process more engaging and boost employee morale?

Communicating regularly and openly with employees is the key to boosting morale and employee engagement. Set clear goals and KPIs on what you can do to achieve this. Think about what the end reward should be like and what type of output you'd like to achieve from your incentive program. Plan fun and exciting strategies which keep everyone engaged along the way. In addition, set up a reward and recognition program to further engage your employees. Employee rewards don't have to be pricey, challenging, or complicated. They just have to be worthwhile, thoughtful, and ultimately make your employees feel special and rewarded. Cash rewards are often incorporated into the paycheck and can easily be forgotten or spent on items such as fuel or food from the employee's perspective. Alternatively, non-cash rewards, including vouchers, gift cards, and fun experiences, give people lots of choices and a great deal of flexibility. By gifting experiential rewards, businesses acknowledge that one size doesn't fit all and make sure that each employee's reward package works for them. Furthermore, non-cash rewards can be used on team-building experiences, such as escape rooms or a cocktail making masterclass. We're firm believers that the power of great work culture comes through experiences and working together. Experience rewards are about making space for new discoveries, quality time together, with amazing stories for people to share.

Q. What has been the single greatest factor that has contributed to the phenomenal growth of Virgin Incentives?

The previous company, Cloud 9 Living did not have a corporate team. As part of this, we now have dedicated sales and marketing resource; we’ve rebranded the business, invested in a new technology stack, including a new website, virginincentives.com. We also used our expertise from the UK (£11million turnover forecasted for the current financial year) and mirrored our processes, reporting and data insights to grow in the US. We’ve leveraged relationships from our UK market with clients, employees, and sister companies in the US.

Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?

We very recently launched 4 new collection vouchers, available in values from $200 to $500; each collection voucher is a ticket to a world of fun treats, experiences, and exciting days out. Businesses simply pick a theme or price point and gift these to employees or customers. For example, the gold collection voucher includes wine tastings, an entire day with a professional chef, a playing lesson with a PGA Pro, flying lessons, or remote island camping, this gift can be anything from a relaxing night out to an adrenaline-fueled adventure. No matter what the recipients are into, there’s something for everyone.

Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?

After a first successful year, we have ambitious and exciting plans to grow. We’re going to further invest in our people, enhance our technology platforms, and continue to innovate and evolve our products. We’re expanding our product range to include new and fun experience categories. We recently launched 51 new experiences across various categories. We’re also going to start offering corporate customers lots of fantastic promotions and incentives, so they can get involved and consider us for their next reward & recognition scheme.

Meet the leader behind the success of Virgin Incentives

Danni Rush is the Chief Operating Officer for Virgin Incentives, Virgin Experience Days and Virgin Experience Gifts. Danni’s career has spanned several industries including travel, retail and outdoor education. Her passion for team engagement, having seen the positive impact that a highly engaged and motivated team can have on business performance, led her to her role as CCO. Danni led the customer experience, product development, partnerships and the people strategy and helped the business navigate through the challenging pandemic period to increase employee engagement ratings and win gold at the 2021 UK Employee Experience Awards.

“We fully understand that for employees, it’s a great feeling to be recognized, valued and rewarded”