. Expanding the ROI of Incentive Programs | Northstar Meetings Group

Expanding the ROI of Incentive Programs

Organizations are looking for new ways to understand and measure the effectiveness of incentive programs

Sell this, get that. In its most basic form, the effectiveness of an incentive program has traditionally come down to this benchmark for success. For a pure sales incentive program, the metrics are easier to define: Employees reach a specific level of sales and earn a promised incentive. In many organizations that's where return on investment (ROI) has stopped -- with little formal analysis of program effectiveness.

An overwhelming majority of respondents (99 percent) to the 2017 SITE Index survey believe that incentive travel programs are "somewhat effective" or "very effective" in achieving important business objectives, with approximately eight in 10 buyers and sellers reporting that incentive travel programs are a strong motivator of performance. However, the practice of measuring results is surprisingly limited, with only 23 percent of corporate buyers reporting that they "always" or "almost always" track ROI. The primary reason given for not tracking ROI is a lack of requirement from management. The success of a program is assumed to reflect in the overall success of the organization. In other words, if the company is doing well, the incentive program must be working.

Broadening Program Eligibility
The survey also explored why organizations operate incentive programs -- and the reasons were revealing. While the top reason cited was "increased profitability of the overall company," here others  -- "improved employee engagement," "strengthened employee loyalty," and "emotional commitment" -- were also high on the list.

Companies increasingly recognize the need to engage both sales and non-sales employees in order to achieve business objectives, and 60 percent of buyers report that they plan to increase the number of people eligible for incentive travel awards. Companies also understand that with multiple generations populating the workforce, a "one-size-fits-all" approach to incentives may no longer be effective. This knowledge is driving organizations to create unique program objectives and measurement.

These days, the most advanced incentive programs have become so much more than "Sell this, get that." Like any sound business investment, the use of incentives to achieve critical business objectives must have proven value to the organization. The SITE Index indicates a significant need and opportunity to make the business case for incentive travel in ways that help companies grow, compete, and succeed.

Tina Weede, CRP, is the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Foundation's vice president of research and education, as well as president of Atlanta-based USMotivation.