* RECRUITMENT & RETENTION A Car to Start: Incentives Lure New Employees Attracting top talent takes a lot more than it used to--and incentives will increasingly be used as a recruitment tool. So says Michael Hadlow, president and CEO of USMotivation, an Atlanta-based performance improvement company. "I doubt that today many people ask in a job interview what kind of incentives a company offers, but five years from now, I bet they will."

Incentives are also increasingly being used as a tool for retention--sometimes flamboyantly so. Take ARCNET, the Holmdel, N.J.-based architectural design firm that leased new BMWs for 32 employees who had worked there at least one year. The employees can drive the cars as long as they stay with the company; leases are rolled over when they expire.

When considering what kind of incentive to offer, ARCNET CEO Al Galdi knew the BMW offer would garner a lot of publicity but also provide a spectacular perquisite for his staff. "We're giving our people something they can feel good about; they will then feel good about the company."

Hadlow sees many companies using incentives for employees other than top-producing sales staff, the traditional recipients of these awards. For example, Canton, Ohio-based Diebold, the ATM manufacturer, has expanded its programs to include all the employees of its largest organization, the 5,000-strong North American Sales and Service. NASS managers award points to employees, each of whom has an online, password-protected account. The points, which never expire, are redeemable for travel or merchandise listed in an online catalog, or via an 800 phone redemption line. "Everyone needs to be recognized, and this program gives us an easy, effective way to do that without reinventing the wheel each time," says Jerry Bryan, manager of marketing services.

But do exotic trips and BMWs really help with recruiting and retaining employees? Jane Weizmann, a senior consultant at Watson Wyatt, a Washington, D.C., human resources firm, thinks they do. "A BMW in a horrible work environment won't keep an employee, but in a good work environment that car is a kind of trophy; it's validating. It creates excitement as well as creating the 'brand' of working at a particular company.

"Incentives are definitely becoming more inclusive," she adds. "Our recent research finds that one of the most successful human resource practices is to make little differentiation in benefits and perqs among the different employees in a company, from the CEO on down." --Robin Amster

* TREND WATCH Incentives Are Catching On, Says Survey Incentive use is on the rise in the American workplace, with an increase in incentive budgets for both last year and this year, according to a survey conducted for Fenton, Mo.-based American Express Incentive Services.

Of 860 incentive decision-makers surveyed, 47 percent increased their incentive budget for that year, while 50 percent anticipate another increase in 2000. Dallas-based Savitz Research Solutions, which conducted the research, surveyed human resource, operations, and marketing and sales executives in several industries including manufacturing, business services, wholesale and retail trade, professional services, finance, transportation, communications, insurance, and real estate.

"Companies are now waking up to the fact that their most valuable assets are their human capital," says Darryl Hutson, CEO of AEIS. "What could be a better recipe for success than having happy employees motivated to serve your customers?" Driving this awareness is the need to recruit and keep employees in today's tight labor market, Hutson adds.

In additional to the survey results, incentive purchasers ranked different kinds of incentives and rewards, including cash, travel, and retail gifts. Travel, at 86 percent, is considered the most "memorable" incentive, followed by gifts at 67 percent, and cash at 58 percent. Of the respondents that do not use incentives, 25 percent report they will consider using them within the next two years.

The results of American Express' research are in line with Corporate Meetings & Incentives' research of its senior executive readers, who have reported a steady increase in their use of incentives in the past four years. A full 42 percent of readers in the most recent survey, published in January, said they expect to hold more incentive programs this year, up from 26 percent in 1999, 23 percent in 1998, and 15 percent in 1997. The number of readers using incentives for nonsales employees also has grown, from 24 percent in 1998 to 42 percent this year, and there has been a slight rise in readers' use of team incentives, from 41 percent in 1998 to 49 percent in 2000. --Robin Amster

What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation? What fun is a picnic where all you do is eat? Summer programs for employees that offer fun activities like simulated rock climbing, huge inflatable games, and wacky team races have caught on with companies such as Cablevision of Bethpage, N.Y., Southco Corp. of Concordville, Pa., and Executive Risk of Simsbury, Conn.

Why change the standard fare? "People are becoming more selective about where they work and looking at quality-of-life considerations," says Richard Blau, executive vice president of Chez-zam Entertainment Group, Deer Park, N.Y., whose company, Team M.B.A., (which stands for Morale Building Activities) plans such events. "Corporate culture is one of those considerations--and that extends to company events."

Team M.B.A.'s programs combine entertainment and unconventional teambuilding exercises. The more "cerebral" company may want game shows or trivia contests; others might enjoy something more on the edge, like inner-tube races or trampoline bungee jumping, or even bed racing, in which participants push teammates on gurneys.

Cool Companies LANDS' END At Lands' End's corporate headquarters in rural Dodgeville, Wis., work is a family affair--sometimes literally, but always figuratively.

"We have 6,000 people at our headquarters (7,200 companywide including phone and distribution centers) in a town with a population of 3,500," says Kelly Ritchie, vice president of employee services. "We operate on company founder Gary Comer's philosophy: Take care of the customer, take care of your people, and the rest will take care of itself."

The company achieves this by maintaining "an open-door policy coupled with strong communication events," Ritchie says. The CEO meets quarterly with all employees to share information and air concerns. Social/family get-togethers include seasonal events like an annual summer picnic and a Christmas holiday party, and special events like the Lands' End talent show, which is hosted by Garrison Keillor.

Lands' End also operates an $8 million activities center for employees and their families. In addition to a gym, track, Olympic-sized pool and other recreational facilities, the center features clubs attuned to employee interests, including photography, grandparents, and Weight Watchers clubs.

The result of all these efforts? Lands' End made Fortune magazine's Top 100 Best Companies to Work For in both 1998 and 1999. --Robin Amster

* GEP EXECUTIVE RETREAT DMCs, Meeting Executives Talk Technology "We've made a huge investment in technology in the past 10 years, and now use it throughout our business for everything from training to program management," said Mark Herbert, vice president, incentives, WorldTravel Meetings & Incentives in Atlanta. Herbert's panel on "Technology and the Corporate Office" was among several educational sessions at the Global Events Partners Executive Retreat, held in June at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. The event brought together more than 100 meeting planners and DMC representatives for three days of learning and networking.

The biggest technology challenge facing meeting executives is a basic one, said panelist Mark Jarrell, president of Meeting Architects, San Francisco, Calif., in the kickoff seminar: how to ensure a smooth transfer of information between all of the parties, including planner, hotel, and DMC. Once that's accomplished, he said, "The ability to use technology to transfer information will drastically cut down our time and our collective expenses."

Attendees agreed that DMCs have evolved from a meet-and-greet supplier to a full-fledged partner. "A decade ago, the DMC was a ground operator," said Diane Smith, CMP, sales promotion manager for Alcon Laboratories Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. "Today, I rely on the DMC to be part of my team and to help me achieve my goals and objectives."

Incentive Edge Rent Your Own Alpine Village Looking for a way to motivate qualifiers who have already been there, done that? How about letting them take over an entire Austrian village?

That's what AEG, the giant European appliance manufacturer based in Nurnberg, Germany, did for two back-to-back groups of 550 of its top salespeople in the village of Brand (population: 650). After a rousing welcome by the town band, the mayor presented the keys to the city. Then attendees settled in for three days of meetings and leisure activities, ranging from skiing and ice hockey to a gala Austrian Evening in the Alps theme party.

The Rent a Village incentive program was created by Incentive Network Co. Inc., Salzburg, in cooperation with the Austrian National Tourist Office. It allows groups of 250 to 1,500 attendees to commandeer a village for three to four days. All the guest rooms in town can be made available. Six different villages participate: Wagrain and Mondsee near Salzburg; Brand in the Vorarlberg; Pfunds and St. Jakob in the Tyrol; and St. Oswald in Carinthia. --Joan Lang

* MPI NEWS The Power of Meetings The value of meetings and events to organizations around the world has only one way to go: up. That's the word from the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress 2000, held July 9 to 11 in Los Angeles. From the special-effects-filled opening general session for some 3,500 attendees to the gala closing party at Universal Studios, MPI promoted the importance of meetings not only to its planner and supplier members but to CEOs, industry sponsors, and business partners.

Throughout the conference, MPI made visual its promise to shape and define the meeting and event industry with its new globe logo and tagline, "MPI: Defining the Power of Meetings." The logo is part of a two-year branding effort that includes a revamped mission statement and an updated Web site (www.mpiweb.org), unveiled at the conference.

Other MPI news: *Meetings in the United States are expected to increase by 9 percent in 2001, according to MPI's annual Meeting Outlook Survey. The study polled nearly 450 meeting professionals, including 163 from corporations, who predicted that their meetings will increase by 15 percent. This growth is attributed to the health of the U.S. economy and more money allocated to meeting budgets.

*MPI Foundation's "Focus on the Future" report shows a shift in corporate meetings from information delivery toward more interactive, problem-solving events. The foundation brought together 54 corporate meeting executives, industry suppliers, and "thought leaders" from outside the meeting industry. Attendees view the future role of meeting executives more as strategic communicators and group-dynamics specialists, and consider skills in consensus-building, negotiation, diplomacy, presentation, and leadership to be essential. The forum included representatives from American Airlines, Deloitte & Touche, Hilton Hotels Corp., IBM, Kraft Food Inc., Motorola Inc., and Sprint. --Alisa Wolf

Motivation Show 2000 Crystal Awards Moves to Chicago, CMI's Bob Nelson to Keynote The Motivation Show, the combination of the 28th Incentive Travel & Meeting Executives Show and the 67th National Premium/Incentive Show, returns to Chicago's McCormick Place October 10 to 12.

New this year is a champagne reception at 7 p.m. on October 9 to honor the winners of the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives Crystal Awards. The event will precede SITE's Intra-Industry Reception, which kicks off the show each year. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago's Crystal Ballroom--a beautiful, new venue with a fitting name. For more information, call SITE at (212) 575-0910 or visit www.site-intl.org.

SITE and the Incentive Marketing Association have coordinated more than 40 seminars to be offered during the three-day event, including a keynote speech by CMI columnist and best-selling author Bob Nelson.

Back for its 23rd year will be the PGI Pizzathon, set for October 11, from 8 p.m. until closing at the Hangge-Uppe bar in the city's Rush Street area. PGI is the events and communications company based in Arlington, Va. For tickets, contact Wendy Nipper at (703) 528.8484 or e-mail wnipper@pgi.com. For show registration information, contact Hall-Erickson at (800) 752-6312 or e-mail customerservice@motivationshow.com.

* BEYOND BORDERS News from EIBTM The European Incentive & Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition drew upward of 2,700 exhibitors and 3,000 hosted buyers to Geneva, Switzerland's Palexpo from May 23 to 25. Among the news from the show floor:

*Global Alliance--Initiated by Australia's Adelaide Convention Centre and the Congress Centre Hamburg in Germany, the Global Alliance brings together seven leading convention centers in a marketing agreement. In addition to the two founding centers, the group of seven (one per continent) includes the Hynes Convention Center/Boston Convention Center in Boston; the International Convention Centre, Durban, South Africa; Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center; Jerusalem International Convention Center, Israel; and the Rio Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brazil. Organizations whose conventions rotate among the centers in the alliance will benefit from a sharing of information about their conventions among the centers. Frank Seifert, owner of a congress company in Berlin who also acts as the Adelaide Convention Centre's representative in Europe, will act as the "secretary" for the alliance and as the "one-stop shop" for clients booking the centers.

*The International Institute for Peace through Tourism--IIPT will hold its fourth global summit in Jordan November 8 to 11. The summit, to be held shortly before the late King Hussein's birthday, will honor the monarch's legacy as a peacemaker in the Middle East. Previous summits were held in Vancouver (1988), Montreal (1994), and Glasgow (1999). Plans call for regular regional conferences and global summits every four years. The 2000 summit is endorsed by 20 travel organizations that have formed the Coalition of Partners for World Peace through Tourism, including the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus and the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives. Visit www.iipt.org for more information. --Alison Hall

* FYI Online Gifts and Incentive Strategies *Bravanta.com--Whether you need pillow gifts for an incentive group or an award for your top producers, you'll probably find it at www.bravanta.com. What makes the site unique, says President and CEO Allyson Campa, is "the broad assortment of items we carry--from spa getaways to what we call business classics. Our strategy is to not to have the most items, but the most carefully chosen items."

Users can log on and browse the site's 2,000 items (search the whole roster or search by category)--or set up an incentive award program that takes care of alerting winners, getting their award selections, and even shipping them.

*Branders.com--At this site, users can log on, select one of 4,000 products, drag and drop their company or meeting logo onto it (as an .eps or .jpeg file), and see what it looks like. Looking at golf shirts? The site can even show the difference in the logo using silk-screening vs. embroidery. The site (www. branders.com) went live in January and now has 10,000 registered users, says Dale Veno, vice president, sales and marketing. All items on the site are in stock, and orders can be placed online for immediate delivery.

And if you plan your meeting through EventSource (www.eventsource.com), a site selection and RFP Web site, EventSource will send you an e-mail reminder about your promotional items at just the right time--with a link to branders.com.

*Corporategifts.com--If your company is interested in setting up a gift recognition program online, check out www.corporategifts.com. Launched in June, the site enables meeting executives to develop a program, get advice, and buy gifts. The site has three areas: a programs section for incentive, recognition, or gift programs; a gift catalog with more than 700 products from 45 brand-name vendors including Orrefors, Kosta Boda, Movado Clocks, and Waterman; and a library with relevant articles and industry news updates.

*www.fourCE.org.--Four Society of Incentive & Travel Executives veterans--Sandri Cottrell, Paul Flackett, John Udell, and Bob Vitagliano--have teamed up to provide a consulting alliance that offers everything from creativity training to training for corporations on performance improvement techniques. The four will work individually or as a team to develop incentive strategies for corporations.