by Leo Jakobson | September 30, 2014

Every year, Incentive gathers a group of professionals from every sector of motivation and engagement to talk about the state of the industry. This summer, 13 participants gathered at the Convene meeting facility at 101 Park Avenue, near Grand Central Station -- a bright, airy, and well-run stand-alone meeting venue in New York City. Topics ranged from the growing focus on retention and return on investment to the need for non-cash awards, as well as what's happening in the merchandise, gift card, and travel awards categories. What follows is a highlight reel of that discussion; more details and insights can be found in the extended transcript that is available on our website,

The State of the Incentive Industry

 Tina Weede: I think the change that we were all faced with when the recession started was one that was somewhat humbling. I think that the changes that are ahead of us now are really creating greater opportunities. When we look at engagement initiatives and the multigenerational workforce that we have, we see that companies are realizing the importance of keeping their high potential, high-performing associates engaged.

 Kari Vrba: I definitely feel that the industry has come back, but I think it has changed from what it was prior to the economic decline. What we're finding different is that buyers are making decisions more by committee, versus having one person make a decision. We have very smart buyers now. They are very educated in the solutions.

Related: Watch our one-on-one interviews with each roundtable participant

 Hilary Dreiling: At T-Mobile, we're trying to be a lot more holistic about things, and a little bit more strategic about how we approach incentives and rewards. In the past, it may have been a little shotgun, but it was really tailored down in the downturn. As [the economy] comes back, there's a lot more management oversight and a lot more people who want to weigh in on exactly how we're rewarding employees or incenting their performance.

 Patrick Corley: I actually like the industry considerably more today than what I saw pre-recession. Now, instead of being about glitz and glamour, I really feel like we are now truly in a motivational business, a business that is focused on achieving a goal. And we have more of a strategic partnership and more of a consulting role. We're not just using return on investment as a buzzword; we're really looking at it and asking, "What is going to make sense here, what additional return are we getting for this?"