by Leo Jakobson | November 06, 2017

If there's one trend that stands out in Incentive's 2017 Merchandise IQ Survey, it is the growing focus on happy, engaged employees.

The question about budgets produced an interesting result in that the only the largest and most expensive programs saw substantial growth. The number of companies with annual merchandise award budgets of $1,000,000 or more nearly doubled, going from 5.2 percent in 2016 to 9.3 percent this year. In fact, that's more million-dollar programs than in any Merchandise IQ survey going back at least five years. So, the very largest programs seem to be on the rise. There was no real pattern beyond that, with some categories rising and others falling, but never by much more than a point or two.

One reasonable possibility is that the growth in $1 million-plus programs reflects the growing popularity of all-employee engagement programs, particularly at the largest organizations. Those respondents' employers ranged from medium-sized firms in finance and high tech to non-profits to government agencies. But it also included representatives of a half-dozen of the largest, most recognizable companies in the world. 

This possibility is reflected in the responses to the question of what goals these programs had. Far and away the largest decline seen was from programs aimed at building sales, which decreased from 47.2 percent in 2016 to 38.8 percent in 2017. And the "sell new accounts" category declined from 14.1 percent in 2016 to 10.2 in 2017.

At the same time, the biggest increases came from "build morale/job satisfaction" and "improve employee loyalty" (both up 6 percent) and especially "thank employees/client gifts" which was up nearly 15 percent from 35.9 percent in 2016 to 51.0 percent this year. 

Here are the full results:

1)  Please classify your industry.
Automotive  1.1%

Real Estate, Insurance, Financial  7.0%
Pharmaceutical, Healthcare  7.0%
Retail  10.4

Channel Sales  1.1%

Technology, Telecom 8.1%
Manufacturing, Heavy industry  11.1% 
Service  8.9%

Professional 1 5.6%

Transportation  3.3%
Other  26.3%   

2) How large is your company?

1 to 50 employees  50.6%

51 to 500 employees  24.7%  

501 to 1,000 employees  3.7%

1,001 to 5,000 employees  10.1%

5,001-10,000 employees  1.9%

10,001 or more employees  9.0%

3)  What is your company's annual budget for merchandise awards in 2017?
Less than $10,000  43.3%

$10,000 to $24,999  17.0%

$25,000 to $49,999  6.7%

$50,000 to $74,999  5.6%

$75,000 to $149,999  7.0%

$150,000 to $249,999  4.8%

$250,000 to $499,000  4.1%

$500,000 to $999,999  2.2%

$1,000,000 or more  9.3%