What is the greatest challenge you've faced in your job during the past year?

Developing innovative incentive programs is one of Bill Kushner's greatest challenges. "You have to be creative, different. And we're not always doing programs aimed at selling more products. Sometimes it's a matter of promoting awareness of our vendors and products or developing soft skills," explains Kushner, plant operations manager for Techni-Tool, a business-to-business, technical products company based in Plymouth Meeting, PA.

"With so many people we can't send everyone on a trip. Sometimes our budget is small for a program as well, so it becomes simple, like having a luncheon to recognize staff." Kushner's other alternative rewards: movie passes and "giving someone my parking spot or desk for a week."

To help in developing new ideas and programs, Kushner says, "I visit other companies, read a lot, require all of my supervisors and managers to review the trade journals, and have had consultants come in to evaluate each department." A current program designed to boost awareness of company vendors and their products includes seminars, vendors' on-site participation, and daily quizzes given by the vendors with the answers available in product manuals. Rewards for the quiz winners vary. "The top people will be flown to the vendor location for further training, and the trip will include free time there."

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