The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) Invitational recently took place at the beautiful Grand Wailea in Maui. As an IRF trustee and chair of the Research Committee, I really look forward to the Invitational each year. This is always hands-down the best education in incentives and this year was no exception. From a very enlightening panel of end user clients discussing the challenges they face, to Mike Staver, a dynamic keynote speaker who challenged us to look at our own contributions differently, there was  a great deal to learn. For me, though, the greatest takeaways came out of some recent incentive research. Here are a few that I think are particularly insightful:

  • 84% of companies are now offering non-cash incentives.
  • Top performing companies (defined as 5% or more revenue growth plus either 90% customer satisfaction or 90% employee satisfaction) have executives that strongly agree that incentives and recognition are a critical tool and influence behaviors.
  • These companies budget 9.4% of employee income toward sales incentives, as opposed to 7.2% for average performing companies. And award values are higher at $3,920 versus $2,750 on average.
  • The same companies budget 3.5% of employee income toward employee recognition, as opposed to 2.9% for average performing companies. Again, award values are higher at $170 in top performing companies and $150 in average performing companies.
  • The most successful companies also leverage communications and performance data to inspire their audiences, particularly for sales incentive programs.
  • People really don’t prefer cash rewards. Biometric research proves that we actually prefer experience or travel-based rewards.
  • Biometric markers (pupil dilation, for example) lit up most for spa, dinner for 10, sporting events, and retreats of family vacations.

So to break it down … To be successful, an organization must really get behind recognition and rewards as an important part of company culture, and must invest in the program and the people.  They should also offer an array of non-cash and experiential rewards, to connect emotionally – and even biometrically – with program participants.

There’s a lot of great incentive research available to help you design a program and to connect with your audience, from the sales team, to channel partners, to employees. Check out the IRF website for the latest research or shoot us an email about what you’re working on. We’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.

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About the author

As Vice President of Engagement at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and chairs the IRF Research Committee. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel. Favorite travel destinations: Costa Rica, Iceland, Switzerland, and Maine.

Susan Adams
Vice President of Engagement
sadams@nxlperformance.com