For the occasion of Motivation Week, I was hosted by London & Partners and M&IT (Meeting and Incentive Travel Magazine) to take part in a panel discussion taking place today in London. In order to prepare for the event, I was sent four questions by Rochelle Long, the publisher of M&IT magazine:
I felt very enthusiastic about this panel discussion as it gave me the opportunity to clarify the strategic role of motivational events within organizations. It also allowed me to raise awareness to the fact that face to face meetings and incentive programs are recognized as the top genuine catalysts of growth. Being a past president and active member of Site I was of course passionate about this event. Site’s mission is simple – to enhance the awareness and effectiveness of motivational experiences and incentive travel thereby increasing usage globally. The Site Foundation recently released a white paper on ‘Engagement’ which is a very interesting read for corporate leaders. I would like to talk about some of its key findings.
Engagement is frequently defined as “…creating experiences that connect with people on an emotional level, deepen organizational and brand relationships, heighten levels of enthusiasm, and potentially prompt positive actions. Incorporating the concept of engagement helps shift the focus to where it needs to be — away from just tactics and more towards building a relationship strategy that’s directly linked to business outcomes.” Is this new? No, engagement is not a new concept; there have been decades of discussion about the impact of engagement – aka satisfaction or empowerment – on corporate profits. Engagement becomes even more meaningful now that companies must squeeze maximum return from every asset. Now is really the time to move engagement from a conceptual notion to a concrete opportunity.
Opportunity to Grow
People want rewards for their accomplishments just as they did in the past but many of the old carrot-and-stick techniques are distasteful to generation Y. The younger workforce wants the opportunity to grow as individuals and then to advance in their organization. In a Site Foundation survey, 71% of talent say that a company’s culture is central to satisfaction. 57% of offsite workers agree with that claim.Employees want access to resources to do their job and they want acknowledgment of their role in the company’s success. And although being a baby boomer, I totally agree with this as I live it every day in MCI, the company that I work for.
What if… I can get no satisfaction?
Fostering employee engagement calls for the creation of an environment that allows talent, as well as clients alike, to fulfill their individual needs. It is up to management teams at every level to promote this kind of employee/client satisfaction but it is critical that there be an overall corporate culture to support their efforts.
The Site Foundation’s 5 step approach to promote engagement
First: keep a tight focus on talent. In difficult times, employees tend to step back to the more basic hierarchical needs. With that, their sense of commitment decreases. As a result, organizations must aggressively pursue the hearts and minds of their key performers (talent, channel partners and clients alike). They must be sure they understand their staffs’ and clients’ needs — what they think and feel on a day-to-day basis — and that the organization shows adequate appreciation for their work and effort. Next step is to harvest ideas. To make sure that resources are in place to get talent and client’s input on cost savings, productivity increases, improvement, benefits and solutions. Only then (!) focus on recognition. Foster immediate recognition for significant accomplishments.. Do not make it a periodic scheduled event (remember the One Minute Manager)! And finally, ensure compliance in every respect. Be sure that recognition activities are tracked and monitored, that they are ethical and legal, and will not create a negative image for the company, the employee or the client. Give workers and channel partners full opportunity for discussing ethical and compliance questions in regards to your motivational project.
Set standards: measure results!
Like measuring ROI, fostering engagement goes further than simply comparing before and after. It requires a detailed approach for setting standards and measuring results on a regular basis. The initiative to improve employee/client engagement is far from an altruistic venture. The results go straight to the bottom line. It initiates as well to a natural lead to motivational programs that recognize exceptional performance.
Business professionals know that it is their role and responsibility to ensure that all programs receiving applied resources be viable to the company’s overall strategy. This is true for customer service initiatives, productivity goals, marketing campaigns and any operational area within an organization. This is also true for the employment of motivational reward programs. The use of motivational programs to engage employees, channel partners and clients to achieve business objectives must have proven value to the organization.
What does this mean for me in MCI?
As a global meetings and events management company, MCI understands the core of what drives a company’s success: people. MCI assists and consults clients to unlock the power of their business strategies by unleashing the potential of their people through understanding, enabling, and motivating employees, channel partners, and customers. So am I in the right company that shares my beliefs, I certainly am! The way MCI trains and motivates its talents throughout the year is exemplary. With a workforce of close to 1200 people in 43 offices worldwide, MCI applies these rules within its own operations. There is a strong and open corporate culture, a high sense of trust and a dream we are all pursuing. The MCI Institute offers training opportunities on almost a daily basis. Management teams operate on a very open book system with their talents. Product and service practice specialists share their knowledge constantly with peers. And every year, there is the IBM, which stands for International Business Meeting. Over 700 (of a total global workforce of 1200+) share 3 days of education, peer to peer learning, networking and fun.
A case for Face-2-Face
This thought about the annual IBM made me think of another topic in our industry: face to face communication I recently read a statement in the Harvard Business Review that said: ‘Face-to-face communication contact is the broadest bandwidth communication you can have in professional life.’ To travel, to meet in person – with key customers, partners and employees, remains essential for selling new business as well as building long-term relationships. In this survey 95% of the respondents said that face to face meetings and corporate events are a key factor in building relationships with key stakeholders.
Now is the time!
The same HBR survey asked business leaders what their investment priorities for growth were. Here are the devastating results:
- N° 1 (78%): investing in maintaining current client relationships (understanding and listening to important internal & external customers)
- N° 2 (72%): investing in new relationships
- N° 3 (48%): investing in technology
- N° 4 (47%): investing in training
- N° 5 (42%): investing in new people
This brings me actually to the incentive travel paradox. Whilst in a down economy the N° 1 cost cutting action is to cut travel costs to the minimum (69% of respondents) we have the N° 1 priority for growth – to travel and to meet or travel with existing clients – in other words: to invest in maintaining current client relationships. Now is definitely the time to do incentive programmes! For the same reasons, company executives are mindful of how ‘travel’ is viewed. All stakeholders (partners, staff, clients, suppliers) expect to see spending moneys cleverly. Company executives need to think seriously about this, both financially as well as symbolically. Because too often, perception overrules!
Reducing face-to-face opportunities, especially in a down economic climate, hurts collaboration and makes remote teams feel marginalized. Company leadership needs to ‘connect’ with talents – sales people in particular, channel partners and clients. Incentive programmes offer the ideal climate and setting for this two-way communication to happen.
Just to remind you
What is incentive travel? Incentive travel is a global management tool that uses an exceptional travel experience to motivate and/or recognize participants for increased levels of performance in support of organizational goals. So in which situations should one use incentive travel? Here are a few practical situations:
- To stimulate sales force
- Introduce a product
- Extend a distribution area
- Move slow items
- Open new accounts
- Revive inactive accounts
- Aid sales training
- Recruit salespeople
- Extend peak season
- Reduce selling costs
- Qualify prospects
- Improve morale
- Obtain customer referrals
- Reduce absenteeism
- Introduce a new model
- Improve working habits
- Enlist spouses’ help
- Eliminate overstock
- Goals & Outcome
I guess you have at least one of these situations on hand in your company! So why not take the test? Because a well-designed motivational reward program clearly demonstrates communicated goals, incremental measurement and attained business targets. As the program is reviewed for its ability to produce quantifiable facts and figures, one should not underestimate the additional benefits that will be gained: loyalty and brand building. So motivational programs are fundamentally about achieving business results! A budget model always proves the positive ROI that well-designed incentive and motivational programs provide.
Unlike many business tools, costs are directly related to results. With advertising, for example, one hopes for this kind of relationship. With motivational events and incentive travel it is easy to make the link. You only pay for the results you get. Upfront fixed costs are minimal and the programs can be designed with scalability in mind.
Even in a down market, where staying even may be the goal, there is no other marketing tool with this level of predictability for the relationship between the investment and the return on investment. When a motivational program is designed with the business purpose and measureable results in mind, the outcome is a win for all involved.
Key trends in incentive travel and motivational events
My colleague Padraic wrote the following statement in one of his recent blogs: “Events of the past 3 years have caused us to take a hard look at how we design and market our travel awards. Nowadays “original” and “authentic” are more likely to appear in our marketing and promotional materials than “opulent” and “awesome”. We’re more conscious now of how our reward might be perceived by our company’s wider stakeholder community but we also want our travel reward to make a genuine difference to our qualifiers and also to the communities and destinations where they are hosted.
The incentive game has changed. The traditional business beliefs that brought success in the past will not bring success in the future. The old ways aren’t working anymore. People are skeptical about their relationships with business. Whether they are customers, sales partners or employees, all are looking for relationships with organizations they can trust … organizations that care … organizations that align with their values. Too often, the real story is that businesses view people as a means to their profit end rather than as stakeholders in creating shared value. We must learn to understand, enable and motivate them on their terms. A new framework for stakeholder engagement is needed … a framework anchored in the latest research relative to human drives and behavior. The goal of this framework is to create better business results that, at the same time, enrich stakeholders in ways that are most meaningful to them. It is all about building a win-win proposition …