by Incentive Staff | November 21, 2017

The incentive industry is changing fast, from increasingly sophisticated digital recognition platforms to cutting-edge research on the most effective ways for improving workplace performance. But many aspects of incentives remain as true as they were decades ago: recognition is a powerful tool for motivating workers and consumers; rewards tailored to the recipient are most effective. The individuals on this list reflect this balance of novelty and change. This group of association and incentive house leaders, researchers, end users, and others includes long-time industry veterans and individuals brand-new to their roles. What they have in common is that they are shaping this industry and its direction in important ways while pointing the way to its future.

These 25 people were selected by drawing on input from readers, industry leaders, and our own editorial team. The result is a group of influencers as diverse as the industry itself, each making important contributions to the work of promoting and understanding motivation.

Chairman, IMEX Group

IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America have become a vital part of the meetings industry's professional development and knowledge-sharing landscape. With the IMEX shows, Bloom and his team have created and continue to grow a powerful gathering place for members of the global incentive, meetings, and events industry for networking, education, and, of course, business.

In 2018, he is looking forward to the first-ever joint Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Forum in Rome, and to whether 2017's SITE Index trends continue, including growing budgets and planned expansion of personnel eligible for incentive travel awards.

Globalization of the meetings market also continues to be of interest, given the IMEX shows are worldwide. As Bloom says, "The fact that the SITE Index was published in Spanish and Mandarin for the first time says a lot about the future of our increasingly diverse and globalized marketplace."

Greg Bogue

Chief Experience Architect, Maritz Global Events

As the person charged with turning the latest research and analysis in people sciences into actual programs, Bogue is in some ways where the rubber meets the road for Maritz Global Events. For the past couple of years, a lot of this work took place in Experience Design Labs with clients. This fall, the company rolled out Design Studio, a product that takes that work to the next level by providing "clients with a full set of solutions that are deeply connected to our experience design methodology of delivering a better guest or attendee journey."

Bogue will focus on adding market-specific solutions to Design Studio in 2018, as well as exploring how "changing personal values will impact that meeting and event attendance and behavior." A proponent of what he calls "meetings with purpose," Bogue says, "we're not done with the impact personal and organizational values will have on events." Face-to-face events, he says, "are a perfect place to align and close the gap on 'values dissonance' -- the gap between what the organization deems as important and what its guests, attendees, and delegates believe is important."

Drew Carter

President, Maritz Motivation Solutions

Carter is a recognized thought leader in digital transformation -- helping companies move from intuition-based to data-and insights-driven decision making. He has a deep background in decision sciences and artificial intelligence, which provide an excellent complement to the behavioral science already ingrained at Maritz.

As president of Maritz Motivation Solutions, a role he assumed earlier this year, Carter is continuing the company's focus on delivering innovative solutions that solve client challenges, combining thought-leadership, analytics, and behavioral science. According to Carter, the companies that survive and thrive will be those that create relevant, smooth interactions with customers, sales forces, and employees to drive maximum ROI. These companies will be using data-driven insights to guide their decision making.

Carter is in the midst of transforming the entire industry, through Maritz Motivation Solutions, into an ROI-focused value-creation machine. As Carter put it, "Measuring ROI is really the only way to define success. Companies that fail to demonstrate real business impact will eventually be replaced by those who do."

Anne DiGregory

Director, Global Luxury Sales, Marriott International Luxury Brands

After more than two decades at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, the merger last year of Marriott and Starwood saw DiGregory named head of incentive sales for the combined companies' luxury hotel brands. Responsible for more than 370 hotels and resorts in Marriott's new International Luxury Brands division, including The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, EDITION, Bulgari, Luxury Collection, St. Regis, W Hotels, and select Autograph Collection hotels in Europe, DiGregory has spent much of the  past year focused on integrating and reorganizing the new sales group and its customer events. The goal, she says, is to familiarize both the team and its customers with the new  portfolios. "We all know that business is done with people you know and trust," DiGregory says. "Building that relationship between Global Sales, the customer, and the hotel is paramount" in the incentive market.

Looking ahead, DiGregory sees strength and confidence in the incentive travel business, which she says is "humming along." She adds, "the world is smaller now than ever before and that lends itself well to incentive trips. It's now possible to ensure you are taking exactly the right group on exactly the right trip that meets their objectives [and can] deliver personal experiences to attendees." In 2018, DiGregory will be focused on getting her team and customers educated with all the new choices, including properties that have been underutilized in the past. "I am realigning our account deployment, because as we grow, we still need to give our customers the high-touch, personal service that is required of a luxury sell," DiGregory says. "It is important for us to know our customer, and also our hotels, to the utmost level of detail."

President, Hinda Incentives

Under Donnelly's leadership in 2017, Hinda launched the Hinda Partner Portal to enable its reseller partners to better understand and elevate the solution side of their businesses. The Partner Portal contains more than 10 hours of training and sales support videos as well as customizable marketing collateral, white papers, ebooks, and how-to guides. The initiative also provides subject matter expertise and business development support for Hinda's partners, and it has engaged more than 250 new partners in the past year.

"The response has been tremendous and our business development team is excited by the interest and enthusiasm of our new partners. We have transitioned Hinda from a former stocking rewards distributor to a full-service, technology-enabled and solution-focused marketing services agency that helps our reseller partners provide the best in incentive and loyalty engagement solutions for their end clients," says Donnelly. "We are focused on providing solutions that engage, inspire, and reward employees and customers, along with delivering customized and branded rewards-delivery experiences. We call it 'the future of engaging rewards,' and I'm excited our team is driving the industry forward."

Holly Glowaty
& Kristen Thiry

Co-founders, Flourish: The Growth of Branded Currency; Co-founders, K+H Connection

The gift card sector offers plenty of exciting developments and opportunities for motivation, but these can often get lost at larger incentive trade show and conferences. Which was partly why this year, Glowaty and Thiry launched Flourish: The Growth of Branded Currency, based on what these veterans of the financial technology sector call "the hypothesis that our industry needed a forum that challenges us to look at products like gift cards, promotional codes, and stored value beyond their traditional use-cases, and as part of a larger value proposition."

They succeeded in doing just that, bringing together major players in the industry and experts in the financial technology sector for lively discussions, while providing actionable solutions for attendees. Glowaty and Thiry are now lining up the speakers and experts for the event's second iteration in April of next year, leveraging their knowledge of alternative solutions and nontraditional channels to help broaden the conversation around this segment -- including the term "gift cards" itself.

"A gift card is more than a gift," say Glowaty and Thiry. "Promotional value has value that extends beyond the use of that code. Thinking of these products as vehicles for larger engagement can create innovative programs, experiences, and technology that can revolutionize not only incentives, but the wider FinTech community as well."