Feature Article - November/December 2013

IMA Closeup

Businesses Turn to Association for Ways to Motivate, Retain Employees

By Deborah L. Vence

When it comes to measuring employee satisfaction, finding better ways to bring value to customers or just learning about the incentive industry for the first time, the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) has it all.

It is the go-to organization to help educate companies about the incentive marketplace and recognition programs, and encourage the use of performance management and measurement tools to help companies improve their business. The association represents every segment of the marketplace including advertising/sales promotion agencies, consultants, distributors, gift card and gift certificate suppliers, fulfillment companies, incentive houses, manufacturers, national marketing companies and more.

"As an association, IMA's goal is to provide members with a continual stream of fresh resources that will help them bring added value to their customers," said Karen Renk, the IMA's executive director who will be retiring at the end of the year.

Many of those resources can be found on the website, incentivemarketing.org, including an education resource catalog that is updated monthly; case studies, such as those profiling the winners of the Circle of Excellence Award and showcased examples of best practices in the design and implementation of employee incentive, sales incentive and channel programs and consumer promotions; as well as a featured news section. In addition, the IMA site boasts a glossary of incentive industry terms; a section on incentive marketing basics for those who are new to the incentive marketplace; comprehensive research that encompasses the IMA's research library of studies conducted by the Incentive Federation, the Incentive Research Foundation and The Forum: Business Results Through People that is affiliated with Northwestern University; as well as a compilation of white papers and presentations on People Performance and Recognition, Award Choices, Customer Loyalty and Online Incentives Programs.

In fact, this year the IMA offered webinars and seminars on gamification, the latest incentive industry research, global incentive program trends and much more.

"IMA's annual Circle of Excellence program generates new best practice case studies and showcases the latest trends in successful incentive and recognition programs," Renk said. (Each year the IMA recognizes exceptional examples of incentive programs that have been used as business tools with the Circle of Excellence Award.)

Such programs are essential given that employees who do not feel recognized or valued for their contributions at their companies often end up leaving. Businesses globally want more innovative yet proven ways to motivate and retain their best talent.

"Companies that measure employee satisfaction after one year of using flexible online recognition and rewards systems are reporting double-digit improvements in employee engagement scores and are able to show ROI for specific initiatives where they have recognized behaviors, improvements and results," said Louise Anderson, executive vice president of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), and president and CEO of Anderson Performance Improvement in Hastings, Minn.

In this issue of Premium Incentive Products magazine, we take a closer look at the IMA with the input of Anderson, Renk and Richard Low, vice president of the IMA and national account manager at Hamilton Beach Brands Inc., who shared their views on the organization's accomplishments and initiatives this year, their views on the importance of working with IMA members and the latest industry trends.