Incentive Industry Insights

by | October 8, 2019 | Blog

Editors Note: this article was originally published on July 7th, 2016

If incentive industry insights is what you came for, you came to the right place. Often times, as a business offering some type of performance improvement program, we have to ask ourselves, “How can we enhance our offering so that it goes beyond the rudimentary ‘do this, get that’ mentality?” Or to put it more simply, “How do we offer a better incentive?”

This is the question Allan Schweyer of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance attempts to answer in his intriguing and informative eBook entitled “The Art and Science of Engaging Rewards.” The eBook contains more than a decade of research from a variety of sources on everything from engagement and recognition to rewards and analytics. The result is a thorough yet concise collection of industry data and thought leadership that demonstrate the important relationship between engagement and performance. According to Schweyer, if you’re looking to really move the needle for your business, internally evaluating the strength of this relationship is a great place to start.

Incentive Insight #1: Cash vs. Non-Cash

One of the key incentive industry insights highlighted in this discussion is the debate between cash and non-cash rewards. By now, many of you are probably familiar with the general sentiments behind this debate: while most people, when asked, say they prefer cash, their actual performances are typically motivated more effectively by non-cash rewards, partly because of the “trophy value” of the reward, and partly because of the “shared memory” involved in achieving it.

As the Incentive Marketing Association, a leader in the incentive industry, remarks, “Cash is not a motivator. It’s a compensator.” However, in the face of this assertion Schweyer suggests that we must look deeper into the matter if we’re truly going to extract something of value from the debate. He argues that cash rewards are worthwhile for work that is “repetitive, physical, routine, and transactional”—in other words, probably not the type of work most people reading this are involved in. So then non-cash incentives should be the silver bullet for people doing complex jobs but who also suffer from engagement and efficiency issues. Case closed, right?

Not so fast. Schweyer goes on to explain that the best, most engaging rewards “are almost always something that recognizes the individual in a way that demonstrates a true appreciation of who they are and what is special about them.” This means that simply providing non-cash rewards instead of cash won’t necessarily do the trick; the key is to offer what Schweyer calls “carefully selected,” “well-considered,” or “well-chosen” rewards.

Incentive Insight #2: Prize vs. Praise

These are rewards that are selected and presented in a highly personalized way, so that they are distinguished from the random mass of potential products that can be offered while also demonstrating a personal regard for each individual’s unique contribution. Because at the end of the day, these rewards should not be viewed as compensation by their recipients—if they are, then the whole incentive process has failed. As Schweyer succinctly points out, “once someone expects rewards, they become a form of compensation or price advantage and cause disgruntlement when taken away.”

On the contrary, these rewards should be seen as appreciation for an uncommon accomplishment, a spotlight shone on exceptional results, actions, or behaviors. Perhaps most importantly, if reward programs are to become engaging motivators, they’ll need to connect with the individual on an emotional level by engendering feelings of purpose and autonomy. They should provide opportunities both for short-term and long-term recognition, whether it’s by their superiors or their peers.

Schweyer offers various tools that can help accomplish these goals, whether it’s establishing Corporate Social Network (CSN) or intranet platforms, enterprise-wide recognition programs, or the like. The main takeaway here is that there is a lot more going on beneath the surface beyond the simple carrot-or-stick formula that the incentive industry is all familiar with.

And this is just one of the many incentive industry insights discussed in “The Art and Science of Engaging Rewards.” In the course of his eBook, Schweyer goes on to highlight a number of other important features of incentives and engagement—such as corporate social responsibility, response mechanisms, and what he calls “total motivation” (TOMO)—supporting his claims with numerous statistics, examples, and in-depth case studies.


Ultimately, Schweyer seeks to champion the study and analysis of these motivating factors and provide a blueprint for businesses to tackle the very real incentive industry challenges that get in the way of better performances. Schweyer suggests that by more clearly understanding the X’s and O’s of motivation and engagement, companies will be better equipped to optimize the effectiveness of their incentive strategies and thus will be able to maximize the efficiency of their customers and/or workforce.





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