by Leo Jakobson | September 30, 2014

 Rodahl Leong-Lyons: Now more than ever, it's incredibly important for organizations to keep their associates engaged and loyal. Because the economy is recovering and unemployment is actually coming down, those who have had to work in jobs that they chose because they needed to, have the opportunity to choose now. I don't think we've seen the big exodus yet from those jobs. I think that it's going to happen.

 I would say employees have higher standards now. Maybe they're not actually leaving more quickly and making us desperate to keep them, but they have higher standards for staying because they have more options, or they feel that they have more options. I think they raised the bar on us.

 Tim Houlihan: And corporations care more about what those people are thinking and feeling and experiencing. The value we are putting on the social fabric of the organization is increasing.


 Dennis Borst: People are looking for jobs and will move based on what is going to be provided to them beyond the salary. The World War II generation, they worked 40 years for the same place, took a bite out of the same crap sandwich every day, and stayed there through thick and thin. The Millennials are not going to put up with that. They're going to move on and find some place that's going to give them something beyond the salary.

Houlihan: I just wonder if the focus on Millennials is overdone. The younger generation, whatever generation it is, always influences the entire world -- music and art especially. Yet if I think about a call center at a [telecommunications firm], there are people who are 18 years old and 68 years old. We have to continue to figure out how to draw in and motivate and reward and engage all the people across the entire organization. Millennials are almost a third of the workforce, so we need to be informed by their lifestyle, by their choices, by their decisions, but not just by them.

Educating the Client

Vrba: When we're proposing new client opportunities, what we're finding is that they've done a lot of research and what they're also doing is determining if their current programs are viable, or how they can re-energize those programs, or if they should switch to other providers. What we're finding is they're not only doing research internally within their employee constituents. They're getting a lot of advice. It's not just from people like us in the third-party space. They're getting a lot of advice from outside, from different verticals. They're benchmarking.

Weede: It's not the commodity business anymore, plugging in a platform and great merchandise, or a room and a ride and a beautiful sunset. It truly is providing a business solution that's aligned with business objectives. Leading from an educational standpoint and leading from what you're going to bring from a value proposition to an organization's bottom line is critical.

 Lynn Randall: The most recent Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) "Pulse Survey" found that the role of procurement is continuing to increase in the buying decision. But procurement can only take so much cost out, so the conversation is migrating from a cost-saving conversation to a value conversation. It's looking holistically at it and saying, "Here's the organizational goal," instead of one group coming in and saying, "I want to spend for this thing" to motivate people or to increase engagement or whatever. Companies are actually looking at the whole package, at all of the programs coming at people. How are you integrating it into a drive toward business goals, toward the strategic plan?

Dreiling: At T-Mobile, we realigned so that our non-cash rewards department rolls into the compensation department, part of the total rewards department. That's a relatively new change for us, and we're still trying to figure out how those departments work in synergy, rather than in isolation, which is how it used to be.

Recently, somebody brought this cash idea to the compensation team and was told, "You know what? That's not quite the right thing for us to do. Let's use reward points. This is a perfect application for it." So, we're finally starting to see some of that true integration.

To really make it strategic, where we used to just pull this cash lever all the time, and the [non-cash] rewards were completely separate, there's now a hierarchy looking for the best fit.

Weede: If someone says, "I would rather have cash," then you're going to believe that. Whether that is what is going to really drive behavior, drive performance -- that's the hardest part of educating our buyers today.

Randall: The science makes a big difference. We've done research on cash versus non-cash that shows, empirically, that non-cash awards will change the level of production that you get out of someone, whether it's sales or something else. We're integrating different disciplines, such as neuroscience, and human behavioral sciences. You can then counteract [their pro-cash beliefs] with, 'Look, I've got this research study."