It's very possible that in the future, the executives who have been using incentive programs for decades to reward their best workers may re-evaluate this practice. The dearth of workers in some regions and the talent gap in the labor pool will have corporate executives wondering if they'll even have the skilled employees who qualify for performance-improvement rewards. Serious economic crises in places such as Asia have already prompted many corporations to question both the cost of reward programs to shareholders and the message such programs send to other employees or the public. Workplace changes, such as an increase in telecommuters, smaller office staffs, and merger and acquisition frenzies, will continue to challenge traditional workplace structures, making executives wonder if incentive programs will work in these new offices, where communication challenges and loyalty issues abound. And finally, although baby boomers, Gen Xers, and the new "echo generation" might be working alongside each other, it's unlikely that a single incentive program will be able to enhance productivity and morale across all these diverse groups.
Although incentive travel grew out of efforts to increase sales and featured group-oriented reward elements, it is being rebuilt around non-sales applications offering individuality and personalized rewards. In the future, human resources professionals will use reward and recognition programs to induce the best workers from a limited pool of skilled prospects, including such "hot" fields as information technology and financial services. These programs will increasingly be used as vital elements in retention efforts.
A recent study of incentive users, which was co-sponsored by the SITE Foundation, demonstrated that the average volume increase resulting from incentive programs was 19.5 percent--an impressive return on investment sure to appease any hesitant stockholders. Corporate users of incentives (and incentive industry suppliers) will have to vigorously promote suchresults if we hope to eradicate the image of "fun-and-sun holidays" from the public's mind.
Just as office sites themselves change, the Internet will become a mandatory tool for the incentives of the next millennium. Forty-four percent of current U.S. incentive users promote their programs through e-mail. One in five (21 percent) currently uses the Internet, and 14 percent use their corporate intranet during a campaign.
This is only the beginning. These cyber tools will allow for inexpensive, instant communication with participants around the globe, who will be able to check their results and reward status 24 hours a day--providing a motivational boost whenever they need it.