Want To Engage And Retain Employees?

There’s An Incentive Program For That

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals. Engaged employees believe in the company, are enthusiastic about their work and consistently take action to promote and support the organization’s reputation and interests.

Are your clients’ employees engaged? If not, you’ve got an opportunity to recommend an incentive program.

According to a Gallup poll, only a third (32.9 percent) of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs. Half (50.3 percent) are not engaged and 16.8 percent are actively disengaged (think bad-mouthing their employers, just going through the motions, maxing out their sick days, etc.).

As unemployment continues to drop and it becomes an employee’s market, company leaders are increasingly focused on attracting and retaining talent, with an emphasis on engagement strategies as a way to accomplish this.

In addition, as the talent pool in the U.S. shifts dramatically over the next decade, employees with industry experience, contacts and unique skillsets will be able to write their own ticket.

Not only will younger generations of workers need to develop these necessary skills in a hurry, but there will be fewer employees in general. Due to the size difference between Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, the working population is set to shrink by 30 percent.

Leaders must now attract high-performing Gen Xers while enticing Baby Boomers to stay longer. Each day, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 and many are opting for retirement in some form. The American Society for Training and Development reports that, this year, 76 percent of U.S. jobs require highly-skilled workers, and 60 percent of new jobs require skills held by only 20 percent of the population.

As engagement strategies capture attention at the CEO level, businesses investing in a culture of appreciation are expecting employee engagement to provide revenue-related results, such as:

• Lower absenteeism/higher productivity

• Higher profitability

• Effective change management

• Efficient collaboration across departments or divisions

• Front-line innovation within the organization

This makes sense in an economy where customers are the co-creators and drivers of brands, and where employees recognized as a company’s greatest asset are the critical component in the strategy.

Increased focus on driving better outcomes opens the door for providers of non-cash award programs to help companies achieve measurable goals such as increasing sales, employee retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, safety, wellness and more.

The initial intent of the employee engagement movement that started a decade ago was to ensure that employees were engaged in their core job roles. In our new economy, successful companies need their employees to go above and beyond their core job functions to be brand advocates, innovators, change agents, trainers and more. Incentive reward and recognition programs are designed to reward and recognize those who achieve goals and exceed expectations.

A 2012 study by the Aberdeen Group documents some of the outcomes that non-cash reward and recognition programs provide for a sales organization:

• Increased sales quota attainment

• Higher year-over-year sales quota attainment

• Higher average sales quotas (vs. the market)

• Higher customer service ratings

Why Incentive Programs Need An ROI Assessment

Although measurement and determining return on investment are among the 10 steps to effective incentive program design (read the how-to’s in PPB’s September 2015 issue, page 55), a recent study by World@Work found that only 11 percent of organizations that run incentive programs conduct a formal ROI assessment. When the results of incentive programs are not assessed, it perpetuates the myth that incentive programs are touchy-feely and “nice to have but do not deliver measurable benefits.” In addition to the obvious financial benefits of calculating the return on investment of reward and recognition programs, an ROI assessment provides:

• The ability to identify program issues early and course-correct before unintended consequences kick in or resources are wasted

• Necessary feedback for improving the program as the environment changes

• Confirmation that the rewards chosen were effective (or there is need for revision)

• Participant ownership of the program when they are included not only in the planning phase but also the post-program evaluation

The Role Of Communication

Another important step in the design of an effective incentive program is communication. There are several opportunities to communicate with the participant audience, from the planning phase all the way through the post-program evaluation:

Planning: Involve representatives from the participant audience (in this case—employees) to ensure that the goals are a stretch, but achievable; that the rewards offered will be motivational to the audience; and that the participant audience will take ownership of the program.

During the program: Schedule periodic updates to keep participants interested in the program and keep goals top of mind. If the program includes game components or other competitive elements, updates are essential. Most online programs today offer real-time analytics so participants can track their progress.

Post-program: Even if a formal ROI assessment is not conducted, a program review will provide important information for future campaigns. Request feedback from participants to garner the most meaningful information for making the program more effective in the future. Once all the results are in, don’t forget to celebrate the successes. There are some exceptions, but typically the more public you make the celebration, the better. Many times the public recognition is as important as the reward, so make sure company management is involved in recognizing these achievements.

Providers of incentive programs will be able to present company leaders with an even more compelling case for investing in incentive programs and other engagement strategies in their quest to attract and retain critical talent for their organizations.

Check out these websites for more information on incentive reward and recognition programs: www.incentivemarketing.org; www.theirf.org

Barb Hendrickson is president of Visible Communication, a firm that helps companies become more visible in their marketplace through effective communication strategies such as content creation, inbound marketing, social media strategy, reputation management and more. She has spent more than 30 years as a manufacturer’s representative for brand-name incentive merchandise and promotional products, and she is past president of the Incentive Marketing Association. Hendrickson is author of It’s NOT About the Money: 10 steps to designing effective non-cash incentive programs that retain employees, engage customers and improve business.

Hands-On Learning: Incentives And Recognition

Learn more about how to plan, execute and measure incentive programs at The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. On Monday, January 11, from 8 am to 2:05 pm, PPAI is running five sessions within its incentives and recognition track. Most of the sessions are free to PPAI members and to nonmembers with a ticket, and all earn certification points. Find the full list of sessions and descriptions at www.expo.ppai.org/education and register for the sessions when you register for the show at www.expo.ppai.org.

filed under november-2015 | ppb
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