Incentive Industry Roundtable: C-Suite Priorities and Travel Trends

Industry luminaries see growing concern about privacy and expanding goals from incentive clients.

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Julia Reich of Stone Soup Creative created a graphic recording of the roundtable discussion as it happened. Photo Credit:Ketara Gadahn/Studio Alani

Each year, Incentive gathers a cross-section of leaders from across the reward and recognition industry to discuss the challenges and opportunities they are seeing. In years past the event was held in a boardroom in New York City, but this year, we took it public and brought the experts together in a live setting for the first time. The magazine hosted the 19th Annual Incentive Industry Roundtable in front of an audience at Incentive Live, Northstar Meetings Group's annual educational program for incentive professionals, which took place in early March at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park.

The lively conversation between these seven luminaries touched on a wide range of topics, including big data, artificial intelligence and the economy’s effects on rewards and recognition. Though the live event was limited to the industry buyers and suppliers who attended Incentive Live, we're now sharing the roundtable with listeners of Incentive: What Motivates, in three parts. Last month, we shared the first section, in which panelists discussed the one trend or factor that is having the greatest influence on the incentive industry today. In this section, we delve into the concerns these experts are hearing from their clients and those C-suite decision makers, as well as the trends they are seeing in the travel sector particularly.

Check back soon for part three of the Incentive Industry Roundtable.

A few of the takeaways, according to this year's industry roundtable participants:

The Race for Talent Is Heating Up

Mike May emphasized that talent acquisition was a top concern for executives for their companies' incentive programs.
Mike May emphasized that talent acquisition was a top concern for executives for their companies' incentive programs. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn/Studio Alani

Mike May, president/owner of Brightspot Incentives & Events, said he is seeing more investment in employee rewards internally, even if that means more frequent, smaller-value rewards, all aimed at recognizing and showing appreciation for employees. "CEOs know that retention leads to sales," he said.

Goals Are Expanding

According to Melissa Van Dyke, president of the Incentive Research Foundation, the reasoning behind incentive programs has expanded in recent years. She pointed to the fact that in recent IRF research, more than half of program owners at businesses over $1 billion cited "contributing to organizational culture" as a reason for their programs. "At the c-level, they’re looking for a wider set of leading or lagging indicators," said Van Dyke. "Employee engagement, employee retention, productivity, etc."

Incentives Are Culture Builders

Steve O'Malley, division president, Maritz Travel, says "there is a cultural part to what we do -- they build communities." He pointed to a financial advisory firm that isn't just retaining and rewarding its top performers with incentive travel, but offering them additional opportunities at development. "When they send these people to a destination and they're sitting on a beach with another financial advisor, what are they talking about? Financial advisor stuff. They're getting better at their game."

Privacy Is a Growing Concern

Sony Electronics' Shelly Colla pointed to privacy as a top concern for her clients.
Sony Electronics' Shelly Colla pointed to privacy as a top concern for her clients. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn/Studio Alani

"Privacy has become a staggering thing," said Shelly Colla, national sales manager, Premium Incentive Group, Sony Electronics, who has seen heightened concern from clients about how any type of customer data is handled — not just credit-card numbers or financial information, but details on consumer behavior and actions, with the C-suite ensuring that the information is protected and even confirming what type of security software dealers have in place.

Consider the Generation

"If you are engaging multiple generations, you have to think about what you're going to do to differentiate for those generations," said David Gould, CEO of CR Worldwide. "Millennials and Gen Z's are looking for gratification quicker and more regularly — so planners need to keep this front of mind not just with choice of rewards, but distribution and frequency of giving those awards out."

Think Beyond Demographics

Tony Lorenz, CEO of PRA, urged incentive planners to consider broader behaviors and characteristics of incentive participants, beyond basic demographics.
Tony Lorenz, CEO of PRA, urged incentive planners to consider broader behaviors and characteristics of incentive participants, beyond basic demographics. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn/Studio Alani

"It's a pet peeve of mine to generalize people by their age," said Tony Lorenz, CEO of PRA. He added that effective personalization must go beyond demographics, to take behavior and other psychographic qualities into account, and that "that's what drives stronger design decisions for programs -- not that they're 35 from Chicago." 

Engaging in the Culture

"It's different for every generation in how they want to engage in the culture and engage from a CSR perspective," said Rhonda Brewer, vice president, sales, for BCD Meetings & Events adding that younger generations are seeking an "authentic, true experience" of the destinations they visit.

Hear more details about these insights and much more by listening to the second part of the Incentive Industry Roundtable. The broadcast can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you listen to podcasts.