Mike Ryan, senior vice president, marketing and client strategy, Madison Performance Group, outlined three of the top people-related challenges companies face today—and how you can use rewards and recognition programs to meet them—during a session at the Incentive Research Foundation Invitational, held May 28–June 1 at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort in San Jose del Cabo on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

1. The emerging leadership shortage

Baby Boomers are retiring in droves, leaving vacancies in the top spots they used to occupy. But with 47 million Gen-Xers lining up in the pipeline to take their place, there likely will be a vacuum in many C-suites in coming years. And people aren’t as loyal as they once were, with 4.5 million people changing jobs every month, he said. “Top performers are ripe for poaching.”

Incentive professionals, who specialize in knowing how to retain potential leaders, are going to be an increasingly important resource to attract and retain key employees. Additionally, some companies use incentive travel to bring together current and future leaders for informal mentoring in a more relaxed environment.

2. Collaboration across work groups

Nowadays people form teams to work on specific projects, then disband and form new teams as new projects come up, rather than work in long-term teams. “Geographic and emotional distance can trigger a lack of trust, which prevents people from fully collaborating,” said Ryan. One solution is to reposition reward and recognition programs as collaboration programs that bring together team members to grow and learn from each other, he added.

3. Change-management deficiencies

The volume and velocity of change is overwhelming, which may be why change initiatives fail to meet projected returns up to 80 percent of the time, said Ryan. One of the trickiest times is right after change happens, when there tends to be a short-term dropoff in productivity, which he called the “valley of despair.” Rewards can shorten the time spent in that valley and bring people into a better mindset moving forward.