Next Level’s Commitment to Modern Motivation: Lessons Learned from the 2024 Invitational

Next Level’s Commitment to Modern Motivation: Lessons Learned from the 2024 Invitational

June 17, 2024

If you follow Next Level on social media (and of course you should!) you have probably seen that we commit time and resources to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF). The IRF is a foundation, not an association, and its mission is to provide “research and education to the professionals who run incentive programs, the suppliers who make those programs successful, and the industry that focuses on motivating the workforce to perform at their best.”  

Next Level’s purpose is to help client organizations succeed and drive engagement and results through incentive, recognition, and engagement programs. Our team gives time and attends IRF events to lead and to learn alongside industry colleagues and researchers. 

This year, I am honored to serve as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the IRF. It is a true high point in my career to have this opportunity. But we also celebrate Next Level teammate Amy Hickcox’s participation in the IRF Accelerate program for rising young leaders. Amy and I were joined at Baha Mar in the Bahamas for the 2024 IRF Invitational by our colleague, Kolleen Whitley, Senior Sourcing Manager for Next Level’s Travel team. 

If you haven’t attended yet, the Invitational provides an unparalleled opportunity to hear the latest research in our industry, but also allows end user clients, third party agencies (like Next Level), and vendor partners from airlines to hotels to meet as peers to discuss, debate and discover. All of us come away with a better insight into one another’s business, drivers, and challenges. 

Here are our top five takeaways from this year’s Invitational: 

  • Programs must be people-centric to be meaningful. With extraordinary “surprise and delight” moments throughout, we were reminded of the significance of recognizing and celebrating people individually, through personalization. 
  • Top performing companies use people and their stories in marketing to engage potential winners in the program. 
  • Recognition is still budgeted at 1-2% of compensation, while incentives are still budgeted at 5-6% of compensation. When comp and inflation are not aligned, this can create some budget challenges. 
  • All-Inclusives are increasing in popularity in part because they help organizations contain costs while also reducing costs to participants on site. 
  • AI is on everyone’s mind. In a data-driven industry, using AI to increase efficiency while keeping data secure is something many organizations are grappling with. 

A big shout out to all of the vendors, partners, and sponsors who made the Invitational possible and who gave us new ideas for our programs, but especially to Baha Mar and The Bahamas for their kind welcome, and to the IRF staff for the hard work and dedication throughout the year that culminates in this extraordinary gathering!