by Alex Palmer | May 21, 2019

Those running incentive programs are eager for fresh ideas, but do not realize that there is a wealth of insights and expertise available to help them design and enhance their efforts. That was one of the key findings from a new, qualitative study from the Incentive Research Foundation.

Titled "2019 Voice of the Market: The Use of Non-Cash Rewards & Recognition," the research is based on hour-long interviews with 45 professionals who manage reward and recognition programs, discussing their top concerns in designing and implementing incentive programs. The respondents, who spent anywhere from $25,000 to millions of dollars each year on travel, merchandise, gift card and/or points programs, expressed a mix of satisfaction with their programs and eagerness to enhance them.

Perhaps most surprising, the report found that most respondents "are not able to name any resources or sites they have visited and have not identified any excellent information sources they intend to leverage in the future."

"2019 Voice of the Market provides valuable insights into what program owners think about their programs and what they need from suppliers, providers and associations," said Melissa Van Dyke, IRF President. "Our researchers conducted extensive interviews to learn about the experiences and perspectives of program owners, and 2019 Voice of the Market summarizes these forty-five case studies from program owners in one comprehensive report." 

The report lays out a number of takeaways from the in-depth interviews, reflecting the value program owners find in their programs and opportunities for enhancing them further. Among them:

  • Program owners employ a wide array of rewards and motivational tools, including not only gift cards, merchandise and travel rewards but also team celebrations, time off and free lunches.

  • They are also flexible in the way they implement their programs, combining long-term top-performer initiatives with shorter-term sales programs and other incentives.

  • Many of their programs are "managed without external design support," as the report's authors put it. "Those who are aware (or have become aware) often express skepticism that an outside expert would have much to offer, as that person would not have the deep understanding of the firm or the target audience that the program owner has developed over time."

  • Many respondents believe they could improve their program communication efforts, seeking ways to cut through the clutter of email and other messaging.

The full report is available for download at IRF's website here.