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Awards: Overview

As anyone visiting this Web site can tell, incentive, reward, and recognition programs include many more considerations than the award itself. In fact, these programs resemble other types of external and internal marketing programs in that they include multiple elements – including strategic planning, objective-setting, communication, training, measurement, feedback, etc. The difference is that for these types of external and marketing programs, the primary medium is the award – the cash, merchandise, gift card, travel, special services, or anything an organization uses as the marketing vehicle for the campaign.

Many managers assume that because the award is the primary element of an incentive, reward, or recognition plan, they should start with the award selection before going through any formal evaluation process. In fact, many planners make award selections based more on hunch or even personal preferences than based on a strategic understanding of how awards fit into the overall program picture. There’s an old joke in the field that many incentive travel destinations get selected by the boss’ spouse.

Most organizations would prefer their various audiences to display loyalty and commitment without any type of reward or incentive, and indeed, self-motivated loyalty or inspiration probably provide more enduring results. Awards should not be promoted as the reason for a consumer to buy your product, for a distributor to stock your product, for salespeople to sell more effectively, or for employees to delivery higher productivity and quality. Instead, awards should be considered as part of the mix of elements that contribute to overall motivation. The reasons are outlined in the study “Incentives, Motivation, and Workplace Performance” prepared by the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI) and funded by the Incentive Research Foundation.

The ISPI study identifies a number of key elements essential for motivation that can be addressed by various types of awards. These elements include:

Buy-in – the willingness of people to participate and engage. Properly selected awards help foster a sense that the organization means business, and can contribute to people being willing to give the program a shot.

Task value – the sense of purpose that comes with a job. A properly structured program can give employees –even those with the most menial jobs – the sense that their work makes an important contribution to the organization.

Emotion – positive feelings related to a product, organization, or job. It turns out that happy people generally exhibit more engagement.

Support – people want to feel that their loyalty or effort gets appreciated. Appropriately selected awards can play a major part in fostering a sense that the organization has taken note of individual loyalty or contributions.

Communication – it’s almost as difficult to get people to read something today as it is to motivate them. People have become so overwhelmed with e-mails, company communications, marketing messages, etc., that they often don’t read what you send to them. Awards and promotional products can help break through the clutter and make sure your communications get read, whether delivered via e-mail or print mail.

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