Guest Column - March/April 2008

Pump Up Your Program

Providing the Total Reward Experience

By Dana Slockbower

ven the best-thought-out gift can be disappointing when the box reads, "Batteries not included." Giving a great reward means giving it real thought—from start to finish. From research to batteries to installation, here's how to truly show appreciation for a job well done.

Demographics, Schmemographics?

Reward selections should be designed based on demographics. Do some research on who is participating in the program, then choose rewards to fit the profile. Are you running a wellness program? Try including merchandise that will entice and motivate participants to reach their goals. MP3 player accessories are perfect for keeping them energized while working out. A new cookware set makes it easier for them to eat healthy. Participants will work harder to reach their goals and earn rewards they can really use.

Once you've done the research, don't let the selection go stale. Even after the program has launched, keep seeking out new products and trends to keep your program fresh and invigorating. Once the products are selected, make sure there is accurate inventory to avoid giving participants an "out of stock" notice for that 46-inch flat-panel television they have been working toward.

Theme It

Every incentive program should have a prominent theme so participants have something to associate it with. The theme should reflect the company's culture and branding, while being playful and exciting. Having a theme also helps make it easy to get creative with collateral surrounding the program.

Try using a program mascot or logo that can be used on all related materials. Some ideas include:

On the Red Carpet: Make your participants feel like "stars" with a Hollywood-themed incentive program.

At the Casino: Use slot machines, dice, cards and poker chips in collateral to convey the feeling of a casino.

In the City: With Broadway, subways, taxis and all the hustle and bustle, the possibilities for creativity are endless.

World Cup: Give participants the opportunity to reach their "goals" with the excitement of a World Cup soccer theme.

Reward catalogs should be consistent with the program theme, and also should be easy to navigate. Simple order forms make the redemption process painless for participants, and help reduce errors on the back end.

Get the Word Out

Give participants more than one way to access information about the incentive program. What are the goals of the program? How can points be earned? Where can a catalog of rewards be found? Using both online and print collateral is a great way to keep everybody informed—regardless of their geographic location.

Send e-mail messages and leave notes in mailboxes to remind participants to keep reaching for those goals. Use the company intranet to post banners with the program theme. Hang posters, send brochures and include program-related information in company newsletters. Some tips: hang posters in high-traffic areas, such as near the employee entrance or in the cafeteria. Send e-mails midweek at midday, when they are least likely to be lost in the inbox shuffle.

Feeling ambitious? Throw a launch party. Rent out a banquet hall and decorate it to fit the theme. Serve hors d'oeuvres and cocktails while informing participants about the incentive program. Create excitement while guiding them through the process. Going above and beyond expectations to impress participants about the program makes them even more motivated to succeed.