by Leo Jakobson | January 28, 2013
There were lots of great entries for Incentive’s third annual Motivation Masters competition. The programs, which took place between Jan. 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, covered the range of disciplines from internal sales and channel partner incentives to engagement and employee recognition programs. Here are some category winners: 

Assurant’s ACE Employee Recognition Program
Program Name: Ace (Assurant Commitment To Excellence)
Incentive Company: Anderson Performance Improvement Co.
Dates: Jan. 2011 to present
Participants: 2,648

New York-based Assurant, Inc. is a provider of specialty insurance products in the U.S. and internationally. Last year, following a companywide employee engagement survey that showed a need to improve recognition, Assurant decided to act. The result was the Assurant Commitment to Excellence (ACE) Recognition program reinforce a “One Assurant” commitment, boost employee morale, and increase employee engagement, performance, and retention by building a new recognition system. 

The program initially launched in two business units, with the goal of creating a flexible recognition tool that could be expanded to other divisions in the future. As the results came in, two other units quickly signed on. The tool offers Assurant’s managers and executives easy tracking, feedback, and results data, and has the flexibility to make regular improvement and new additions to the program simple.

The points-based program has a catalog of 4,500 items ranging from merchandise to a full-service travel agency. 

The ACE Recognition program has four components: 

• E-Cards: Peer recognition tool for thanks, going above and beyond, and life events. Any employee can send to any other to say thank you, recognize them for going above and beyond, or for birthdays and other life events. No points are awarded. 

• ACE Awards: Peer nomination in three levels, with points. Any employee can nominate a co-worker for a bronze, silver or gold ACE Award via an online form. Once approved, the recipient receives a printable certificate and points.

• Scratch-and-Win Cards: Electronic and physical spot recognition cards award variable points to build excitement. Used for spot recognition by managers, these cards have a variable amount of points to add excitement, both among the recipient and co-workers. 

Assurant regularly surveys employees about the ACE program. In less than two years the satisfaction level with Assurant’s recognition has grown 6 percent over the initial survey. In that time, there have been 4,269 individual ACE Awards approved (and more for teams), 3,389 Scratch-and-Win Cards awarded, and more than 7,000 E-Cards sent. And participation has been strong, with fully 70 percent of employees using the program from the start —- more than double the norm. 

Assurant has seen satisfaction survey scores grow 6 percent, more 7,000 e-cards have been sent, and points have been awarded more than 7,500 times. Fully 70 percent of employees participated from the beginning, more than double expectations.


M&T Bank:  A Year’s Sales in Five Weeks 
Program Name: Super Silvers 21
Incentive Firm: MotivAction
Dates: 01/28/2012 – 04/21/2012
Participants: 250

M&T Bank, a Fortune 1000 financial firm based in Buffalo, NY, wanted to find out how much of the company-wide sales goal set for its 250 Financial Advisors could be jammed into one 10-week period if motivated by an aggressive, non-cash incentive program. M&T turned to Minneapolis-based MotivAction to create the Super Silvers 21 program, which consisted of a two-week launch and information period, a five-week qualification and earning period, and a three week redemption period.

In previous years, only 20 to 25 percent of M&T Bank’s financial advisors met their individual annual sales goal during the year. A secondary objective was to reward their financial advisors when appointments were set up and completed with both new and existing clients. To build and maintain momentum during the short program window, MotivAction used game mechanics to build excitement -- creating a two-tier award program and requiring participants to reach sales thresholds to get any award.

Twenty five goals were established, such as selling five or more mutual funds worth at least $10,000, selling five money market funds over $25,000, setting up appointments with five new clients, and meeting with five existing clients. Meeting any five of those goals would unlock the first tier awards -- a $1,000 Amazon gift code, a 64GB 3G Apple iPad, and $1,000 of travel credits -- while meeting the remaining 20 would unlock the second tier of awards, a $2,000 "My Rewards My Choice" debit card, a Sharp 46” Aquos HD LCD television, and $2,000 of travel credits. When four direct reports met their Tier One goals, their managers earned Tier One awards.

An aggressive communications program drummed up excitement beginning with in-person with kick off meetings, explaining the program. During the program, a postcard was sent out first with a deck of Super Silvers 21 playing cards. A few weeks later another promotional postcard was sent to the participant’s home with chocolate Super Silvers 21 poker chips. These mailings kept the Financial Advisors engaged and reminded them with something tangible what the Big Deals included.

The results were impressive, to say the least. The M&T Super Silvers 21 program achieved nearly 200 percent of the program goal and met 95% of the total annual sales goal for the entire year during the five week qualification and earning period. That meant $2.85 million of incremental revenue and an ROI of 19:1. More than half of M&T's financial advisors met or exceeded sales goals -- almost double previous years results.

To accomplish the objectives of M&T Bank, MotivAction designed a program using our “The Big Deal” platform reinforcing four basic principles of engagement and loyalty. 

1) Goal setting. We create a laser-like focus on the behaviors and goals important to M&T Bank. 
2) Game mechanics. By establishing a threshold for access to the deals, we increase desire and competition. People want what they can’t have. 
3) Communication. Multiple communication triggers like announcing deals, unlocking awards, program standings, and time for redemption, contributed to an awareness that drove performance for both the Financial Advisors and their Managers. 
4) Redemption. Redemption is the golden moment in an incentive program. M&T Financial Advisors weren’t just working to earn “points” – they were working to be one of the select few that could get beyond the velvet rope and unlock high-value rewards. MotivAction understands that successful programs include management. It is critical for the manager to have “skin” in the game as it significantly drives awareness and participation. In the Super Silvers 21 program, we decided high sales revenue would be achieved if managers had stakes in the program as well.