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Mike's Recession Beating Tips

'How to motivate staff out of a recession'

The current recession was the central topic at the recent Incentives and Promotions Show.  At an industry leading seminar several luminaries joined Mike Davies to consider, among other aspects:

  • How did the onset of recession impact employers' motivation and incentive strategies?
  • Are we recovering, stalling or sliding backwards?
  • Are traditional incentives being challenged?
  • What new directions are emerging?
  • Have non-cash rewards become more attractive to traditional cash users?
  • What of the next three years?

In terms of the effects of the recession there was a general consensus among the panel that a considerable amount of activity that may have been viewed as a cost was challenged.  However, perceptions and realities are often not the same and "the majority of clients saw the need to cut costs and sell their way out of recession, therefore there continued to be a strong demand for sales incentives, particularly in third-party distribution channels", however, the type of incentive dramatically shifted away from top-performers, high end incentives that were deemed inappropriate during times of belt-tightening, and more toward goal based, individual incentives - as Mike summarised "effective and measurable incentive programmes that produce real ROI are being seen as a highly effective way to push sales and drive behaviour change".

Recognition came into play far more as well, although Mike warned against ditching the reward element totally and noted that "employers have become increasingly creative in their use of low/no cost recognition", with the emphasis again on being appropriate for the times we are in.


The panel unanomously agreed that it was too early to call the current situation a recovery and that economic slowdown was still the case in many markets, especially with the end of government support measures.  However, for the industry one notable aspect has been the highlighting of the value specialist performance improvement and incentive agencies bring.  Businesses have questioned many legacy activities and the return they provide, "companies are increasingly turning to specialist providers such as BI WORLDWIDE to build effective motivation and incentive schemes", the emphasis being on "effective".

A Shift in Rewards?

The 'cash v non-cash' debate still goes on, although whilst it is proven beyond doubt that non-cash delivers better performance gains than cash, there is still a tendency to use the convenience of cash in the very short-term in an effort to maximise sales, perhaps for those on the edge of survival?  However, for many businesses a shift was also noted toward non-cash for short to medium term activity "incentives linked to goals, targets and objectives remained in demand as a means to improve performance throughout the recession" Mike confirmed.

And the Future?

Technology and more of it.  It drives innovation and innovation drives it in the world of performance improvement and incentives.  The application of new and fast changing technologies is becoming not a 'nice to have' but a 'must have', and Mike recommends that clients "embrace technologies like social networks, mobile telephony and the interconnected world to engage more with generation Y and beyond". 

The panel also considered the forthcoming years and could be viewed to have summed up the economic situation as 'uncertain', although there were plenty of reasons to remain positive, especially with the challenges of delivering better returns and new technologies into incentives, motivation strategies and employee engagement initiatives.

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