The results of our 2002 Incentive Trends Survey are in (see page 26), and the overriding sentiment can be summed up in two simple words: “Don't know.”
Eighteen percent of readers didn't know in November, when the survey was conducted, whether they would move forward with their 2002 incentive programs. Far more (34 percent) were not sure if their companies would hold incentive programs in 2003.
Of course, since 2002 incentive contests were already in the works in late 2001, it would be de-motivating to employees to cancel them. 2003 is really what's on everyone's minds.
But there's more: Thirteen percent of our readers had already decided to replace travel incentives with other awards (cash, gift certificates, or merchandise), and — here's the number that caught my attention — 42 percent said they weren't sure if they would. If all those “don't knows” — or even, let's say, a third of them — make plans to replace travel with other incentives, it could dramatically affect the incentive industry.
That's already happening. Colin J. Higgins of Performance Enhancement Associates, Waltham, Mass., has seen several clients replace travel awards with cash: One trip scheduled for Las Vegas in October 2001 was canceled, and cash was offered instead; another scheduled for this month to Puerto Rico was canceled and replaced with cash; and a third scheduled for Bermuda in August was canceled and cash or no-fly regional trips offered instead.
In a post-9/11 survey by the Society of Human Resource Managers, 52 percent of respondents reported that “employees would no longer consider travel as glamorous” after the attacks. Is travel still an incentive for your employees — or those of your clients? You need to find out — whether that means doing an immediate e-mail survey, polling the sales force at the next meeting, or offering the option of individual or no-fly trips and seeing how it goes.
For years, incentive firms have talked about moving beyond their role as trip deliverers and becoming “recognition and reward consultants.” Companies need awards that appeal to people of different tastes and demographics and that allow for changing business conditions — and they need them now.