Susan Adams: Key Insights in IRR Market Report 2024

Susan Adams: Key Insights in IRR Market Report 2024

February 12, 2024

Susan Adams, Vice President, Engagement Strategy at Next Level Performance, provided key insights into the IRR Market Report 2024 published by the Rewards Recognition Network.

In full, the article compiles the insights of executives from 14 companies about the incentives, rewards, and recognition market in 2024.

Susan spoke on growth in the industry in a dispersed workforce, in times of economic uncertainty. Read more below:

Growth is being driven by the pressing need to engage employees and supply chains tempered only by high costs and some economic uncertainty; there is more use of tiered programs to reach more people and more emphasis on personalized group and individual reward experiences.
The incentive and recognition industry has experienced a period of intense growth and activity over the last 18 months, as client organizations have worked to engage dispersed workforces, re-build after pandemic disruptions, and focus teams on business goals during times of volatility in not only the general economy, but also the supply chain and credit markets. As incentives and recognition have proven to be essential and effective tools, business leaders have deployed programs, including communications and rewards, to keep their teams on track during tumultuous times.
With some notable downward pressures, such as the recent period of high inflation and conflicts in some parts of the world, the industry is experiencing a flattening of demand, but still at a very high level of activity. Programs are often now tiered with both points platforms and incentive travel, allowing clients to more nimbly shift between goals and budgets for each program. As we know from the Incentive Research Foundation’s 2020 Top Performer Study, the most successful organizations use incentive and recognition programs very intentionally to reach a broad, enterprise-wide audience, and we see that playing out today with strong results.
Many teams are now permanently dispersed, with companies hiring the right person for the job, regardless of location. Other companies are faced with large numbers of relatively new hires, having rebuilt their teams after pandemic layoffs or labor shortages. The importance of recognition and engagement programs in the 2024 workforce cannot be overstated. The incentive and recognition industry has a very important role to play in helping these organizations connect people to the company mission, reinforce training, and create social connections across the enterprise.
Organizations are using recognition and incentives to solve many business challenges. Of course, incentives have always been powerful motivators for sales initiatives. Now, we are seeing more programs designed to make sales and operations teams knowledgeable and efficient, as these are important competitive advantages. We are also seeing incentives linked to product knowledge used in meaningful ways to engage channel partners.
We have seen tremendous interest in incentive travel and experiences, both for individuals and for groups. A desire to travel farther and experience new destinations is also evident in the choices made by clients and individuals, although it remains to be seen if this will continue into 2024, given instability in some corners of the world. Recently the Incentive Research Foundation published Attendee Preferences for Incentive Travel, providing new insight into what is most likely to motivate employees and channel partners now. Among other factors, free time to enjoy a destination and a preference for programs that covered all expenses featured prominently, reflecting the on-going interest in all-inclusive properties and destinations with outdoor activity options. Cruises have also made a comeback with program participants, turning up as the third most desirable travel option.
There has also been recent research on Generational Expectations of Incentives that revealed strong preferences for gift cards and travel experiences across generations, with high earners–typically a company’s top performers–reporting “much greater openness to group travel” programs that also support an organization’s messaging and networking goals.
These results also support the growing need for a varied, tiered program, designed to inspire different kinds of people at different stages of their lives and careers. This is consistent with the changing needs of our clients here at Next Level, as we work collaboratively with them to connect company goals to personal interests throughout the career lifecycle.