by Leo Jakobson | September 27, 2018

Artificial Intelligence isn't the stuff of university research labs and science fiction movies anymore. It's already being used in the incentive and recognition industry, and is on the verge of becoming widely used.

That is the conclusion of the Incentive Research Foundation's latest study, "The Impact and Potential of Artificial Intelligence in Incentives, Recognition and Rewards." In it, the IRF concludes that AI will make it quicker and easier for program managers and designers to identify top performers and deliver the personalized rewards that will motivate them the most.

Indeed, Maritz Motivation Solutions has already experimented with AI in a pilot program for client HSBC bank, and the results were impressive, as Incentive reported in June. The test found that 70 percent of participants receiving a marketing message redeemed points for an award in the category predicted by AI, versus 30 percent offered an award in a random category. It was also the subject of an Inside Pitch column by Maritz Motivation's chief data officer, Jesse Wolfersberger. 

The IRF report looks at the ways businesses of all sizes can build AI into their incentive, recognition and reward programs, addressing issues ranging from data consistency and hiring outside experts to launching pilot programs and using third party software, as well as "developing a culture that fully supports this next level of data-driven decisions," the IRF says.

"Artificial intelligence offers incentive program owners the tools to put the right reward in the hands of the right person at the right time," says Melissa Van Dyke, president of the IRF. "As artificial intelligence becomes more accessible and pervasive, incentive professionals will need to interpret powerful analytics and turn them into insights that can strengthen the effectiveness of their programs."

Among the insights featured in the report are that organizations can use AI to predict what behaviors will lead to the outcomes they want, and then experiment to find out which incentives best encourage those results; and that AI can help hotels manage guest preferences right down to which flavor of coffee they prefer in their rooms.