Winners of the 2020 Motivation Masters Awards Revealed

T-Mobile, Carnival Cruise Line, Penn State Health, Verizon and BetVictor are this year's recipients of Incentive's top honors.

Updated May 4, 2020, 2:40 p.m. EDT. A heart-warming travel experience, a soccer-themed loyalty program, an online training/rewards program, a president's club trip and a program that centralized rewards are the winners of Incentive's 2020 Motivation Masters Awards. These honors celebrate programs in five categories: sales, channel sales, recognition, loyalty, and Grand Motivation Master for outstanding overall achievement. Following, we detail these standout award winners and list other programs worthy of note.

Grand Motivation Master

T-Mobile and MotivAction

Program: Winners Circle

T-Mobile's leadership set out to reach attendees not just as employees, but on a personal level, too, with its annual Winners Circle program for its customer care and retail employees on the frontline. Working with incentive firm MotivAction and creative company Proscenium, the telecom giant created a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience for employees that also gave back to a recovering destination.

Plans had been underway for the event when Hurricane Maria blew through San Juan. The organization, which has a large number of employees and customers who call Puerto Rico home, then decided to do what it could to help the ravaged destination get back on its feet, which meant canceling existing contracts for the program. A new event for more than 650 winners and their guests was designed for San Juan in just 10 months. Beyond the tight timeline, holding an event on a still-recovering island meant a last-minute cancellation of a 500-plus room block due to delayed renovations, and a number of the tours and experiences needed to be altered. But T-Mobile, in partnership with MotivAction and Proscenium, decided it was worth the challenge, and local expertise provided by Discover Puerto Rico, the island's convention and visitors bureau, and DMC Group Services Inc., helped bring the dream program to life.

What a success it was. Activities included extreme ziplining, rum tasting, and tours of the El Yunque rainforest, and evening events welcomed top executives and choice celebrities. Almost every part of the program was customized and branded in T-Mobile's signature magenta, from merch and apparel giveaways to digital billboards placed around the island. An app with schedules, session information and participant messaging received 50,000 in-app actions and the hashtag #WC19 exploded on Twitter.

From participant surveys, T-Mobile learned that employees wanted a voice in the company and to feel an emotional connection with its leaders; to that end, the agenda was designed to include opportunities for participants to network with the company's most senior leaders. 

During two "town halls," individuals were honored for their performance and got to spend time with top brass, including CEO John Legere and president Mike Sievert. In support of T-Mobile's sponsorship of Little League Baseball, the company presented that organization's Latin America director a generous check to support rebuilding baseball fields destroyed by the hurricane — an emotional moment which was heightened by a surprise appearance by Major League Baseball All-Star and Puerto Rico native Carlos Beltran.

The amazing travel experience was capped off with a final-night blowout for winners: a beach club transformed into "Club Magenta." A video of Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon (who had just brought his own show to the island to help stimulate recovery) introduced DJ Khaled as the surprise entertainment for the evening, and winners celebrated until the early morning surrounded by T-Mobile branded LED walls and atmospheric magenta lights. 

The program results were outstanding: With more and more companies using employee feedback as measure of success, the post-event survey of the 655 winners for the Winners Circle was off the charts, garnering a 98 percent overall satisfaction score and similar high marks for individual elements. Social media engagement, another key metric for the gathering, was also high, with more than 1,500 total mentions from 872 users, resulting in 2.6 million potential impressions on Twitter alone. And while the industrywide turnover rate for call-center employees averages 43 percent, that rate is 23 percent at T-Mobile, thanks in part to its incentive events.

"We are always listening to employees to hear what they prefer in terms of recognition, and know that they wanted an experience that not only gave them credit for their hard work, but also gave them a meaningful way to give back," said Morgan Crain, leader of rewards and recognition at T-Mobile. "By making the decision to host Winners Circle 2019 in Puerto Rico, we were able to create a memorable event that also made a long-term difference to that community."

Best Sales Program

Verizon and Bishop-McCann

Program: President's Club

Long-running programs present a particular challenge: In order to keep salespeople engaged and spur greater results each year, organizers have to elevate the contest with ever-more-fabulous rewards. Verizon and incentive firm Bishop-McCann topped their efforts for the 250 winners of the 2019 President's Club program. The "Reach the Beach" program, a luxurious trip to Miami with fabulous giveaways, was the most popular event in the past decade.

Participants were treated like royalty on the four-night, five-day trip: The agenda was filled with high-energy elements like an around-the-world finale (guests dined in Spain, France and Italy via projection-mapping techniques); and activities such as a culinary walking tour, speedboat rides and an Everglades excursion. 

In their rooms, winners found a robust gift catalog allowing them to preselect high-end items such as Apple computers and Hermes bracelets from a pop-up gift shop. Then came the live "Price is Right" game night, which showered them with even more gift rewards. 

The trip was a runaway success: Winners gave the program the highest ratings of any recent program and it "continues to be an incredible motivator for Verizon's sales force," according to Dave Eckberg, CMP, CMM, lead account director for Bishop-McCann, who added that the firm plans to increase the number of winners next year. 

Best Recognition Program

Penn State Health and HALO Recognition

Program: Paws Up!

Penn State Health had unique challenges when it came to recognizing and retaining talent: The healthcare system, which employs 15,000 workers in its Pennsylvania hospitals, clinics and practices, had a scattered approach to recognition that yielded inconsistent results. 

An analysis revealed that though the organization spent $400,000 a year on rewards like gift cards and events, a whopping two-thirds of participants viewed the existing program negatively, with clinical employees, who are so actively involved in patient care, the most dissatisfied.

To remedy the situation, Penn State Health and HALO Recognition developed Paws Up!, a recognition and rewards program aimed at engaging and retaining employees. Among the objectives were to connect more employees, regardless of their roles; enable managers to offer timely recognition; and implement innovative peer-to-peer recognition.

The program, launched in 2018, has garnered impressive results: 73 percent of employees have registered for it and managers have awarded close to 101 million points that can be traded for rewards. Based on these outcomes, PSH plans to broaden Paws Up! over the next four years. 

Best Loyalty Program

BetVictor and CR Worldwide

Program: BetVictor Values You 

The fast growth of the online sports-betting and gaming industry has made hiring and retaining employees very competitive, a problem BetVictor, a U.K.-based online bookmaker, was seeing in its Gibraltar office. The company tapped U.K.-based rewards company CR Worldwide to create a program that would reduce turnover, and improve appreciation events and engagement.

Existing recognition efforts were folded into a clearly defined, soccer-themed program, BetVictor Values You, incorporating length-of-service awards, peer-to-peer nominations, thank-you ecards and even birthday cards, among many ways to earn points that could be redeemed for products from major brands and vouchers for local stores. 

“Multi-faceted recognition programs enable companies to cater to diverse workforces through more personalized recognition,” says CR Worldwide CEO David Gould. “Pioneering brands like BetVictor are already using automated recognition platforms that automatically record and reward individual employee milestones, from work anniversaries to successful referrals or performance against company values.”

A kickoff "town hall" presentation began the campaign with an in-person connection. Employees were given scratch cards loaded with points for immediate redemption. Regular emails with a 68 percent open rate supported the program, and all approved nominations, service milestones and birthdays were promoted on a company "social wall."
Most important, retention soared. BetVictor Values You was credited with reducing employee departures by 46 percent year over year.

Best Channel Program

Carnival Cruise Line and Incentive Solutions

Program: Loyalty Rocks!

Travel agents are vital to Carnival Cruise Line's success: The company relies on them to keep its 27-vessel fleet competitive. Positioning Carnival as the vacation of choice for potential customers requires strong relationships with agents, engaging product education and knowledge, robust motivation efforts, and appealing rewards. 

To that end, the Loyalty Rocks! web-based program was created by Carnival's global sales and trade marketing department, along with platform partner Incentive Solutions. The point-based system offers travel agents gift cards, jewelry, electronics and more, building brand loyalty while giving Carnival significant flexibility to tailor the program for specific promotions or to influence behaviors (e.g., getting agents to switch from making their bookings by phone to booking online). The program is unique in the cruise industry, as it rewards frontline travel agents, rather than their agencies. Points are based on a number of criteria, such as awarding them on a sliding scale by sales amounts.

Using Loyalty Rocks!, Carnival has seen a 15 percent rise in its net promoter score, a measure of travel advisors' brand perception. Additionally, the new platform reduced program costs by more than 20 percent. 


More Great Incentive Programs 

The following entries earned honorable mentions:

APC by Schneider Electric and HMI Inc

Program: APC iRewards

Targeting more than 10,000 reseller organizations spread across 59 countries, the iRewards communications were tailored to numerous audiences and presented in 13 different languages. The program not only incentivized the sales of APC products but encouraged training and engagement through a “question of the week” promo. The program helped drive a more than six-times-the-average sales revenue increase for those firms engaging the iRewards platform.

East West Connections 

Program: Diamond Club

This incentive trip, honoring top sellers at a global pharmaceutical company, transported the 800-plus attendees (many of them repeat winners) to an unforgettable Old World experience. Highlights of the program held at the famed Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland included a classic pipe-and-drum performance, golf outings and falconry. Participants thought so highly of this elegant reward that they gave it a 100-percent satisfaction rating.

Ferguson Enterprises with Incentive Solutions

Program: Ferguson PRO Plus

This customer loyalty program used customized messaging and a multipronged marketing campaign to entice Ferguson's professional contractor customers to order their plumbing supplies through Ferguson's online platform. Users earned points by purchases, short-term bonus promotions, providing feedback and even daily trivia games; the points were redeemable for merchandise, event tickets and charitable donations. The results were outstanding: PRO Plus customers generated 209 percent more revenue per month, on average, and an order value 83 percent larger, on average, than a non-PRO Plus customer.

Legend Brands and Incentive Solutions

Program: Legend Rewards

This mobile-based points program encouraged channel partners for this professional cleaning and facility maintenance company to purchase supplies through Legend Brands via personalized communications, taking part in surveys and providing feedback. Participation rose more than 12 percent, with mobile app adoption jumping 80 percent.

Pirelli and CR Worldwide

Program: Pirelli Prime

The tire company encouraged dealers to purchase their products with a Formula 1–themed incentive program. Each of the 2,000 products in the program were assigned different point values; participants had opportunities to earn even more points through special promos and e-learning opportunities. Pirelli Prime drove a 300-percent increase in tire sales and a whopping 2,688-percent return on investment.

Ricoh USA and HALO Recognition

Program: REACH

This recognition program streamlined numerous ad hoc initiatives into one comprehensive whole, covering 13,000 employees in a wide range of roles. The umbrella program incorporated the Job Well Done peer-to-peer recognition program, quarterly Exceeding Expectations program, Community Caring CSR effort, as well as a high-level STAR incentive program; the latter was revamped to include not just customer support workers, but many other employees. Participation jumped from 20 percent to 89 percent among the company’s three largest services delivery teams, with 95 percent of managers and 93 percent of non-managers saying that they felt recognized in 2019.

Roadway Advantage with Incentive Solutions

Program: Roadway Rewards

This program encouraged truck dealership finance and insurance managers to sell Roadway Advantage’s various services (tire repair, battery boost, etc.) with an online program that allowed participants to earn gifts, travel and events. A special concierge service that let winners purchase items not available in the catalog was a unique feature of this program. As a result, the rate of redemption increased, as did overall engagement.

Veeam Software Company and MotivAction

Program: Veeam PartnerPerks and Champion

The organization completely revamped and expanded its channel-sales program to drive revenue growth, adding a “spin-and-win” gamification element and “learn-and-earn” widget. Veeam saw a significant jump in incremental sales, program enrollment and customer satisfaction.

World System Builder and Central Holidays 

Program: WSB Supertrip

A trip for 5,000 salespeople and their families to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem had to motivate attendees to boost sales last year, as well as increase their efforts upon returning in order to qualify for the following year’s trip. The highlight of this multi-faceted program was a first-time private event at the Biblical site The Valley of Ben Hinnom, complete with period costumes.