More Individual Rewards
Out of necessity, organizations took at close at the value of individual rewards in 2020—merchandise, points, gift cards, and individual travel. The expectation is that incentive planners will continue to increase their use of these motivational tools in 2021. The IRF study predicts a net increase of 33 percent for gift cards and 24 percent for merchandise this year.
Large Group Events Deferred
Organizations continue to value travel-award programs, but the time frame for a return is uncertain. Suppliers, the report notes, are seeing an increase in requests for proposals for 2022 and beyond, and “compression” is already being felt in the market. “With so many postponements and deferrals, organizations may have a hard time finding venues in 2021 and 2022. In addition to venue inventory, staffing reductions may cause delays. Hotels and DMCs are slower to respond after furloughing staff.”
Motivating More People
Merchandise and gift cards proved to be effective motivators to broader audiences during the pandemic. Looking ahead, the report says, smaller rewards can be used to “move the middle 60 percent of producers and raise the overall performance of the organization.” These rewards may play a role in rebuilding corporate culture post pandemic, such as “rallying people who got used to enormous flexibility and are now expected to return to the office five days a week.”
Personalization and Choice
The trend toward reward personalization continues, and it makes the biggest impact when “the recipient is given choices, the reward selection is curated to reflect the employee’s preferences and interests, and the reward aligns with the organization’s culture,” the IRF study notes.
Contracting and Contingency Planning
Organizations are more aware than ever of the need to plan for disruptions; it will be a top priority for incentive programs in the year ahead. “Whether designing a large-scale incentive travel program or a local experiential reward,” the study emphasizes, “contracts need to be carefully reviewed and contingency plans expanded to anticipate new and evolving disruptions.”
As remote working boomed in 2020, “many lessons were learned about the power of virtual engagement—and its limitations,” the report notes. Among the positives was the fact that distributing gift cards, points, and congratulatory messages digitally is immediate, coordinated, and trackable.