Feature Article - May/June 2014

Measuring Up

Experts Talk Strategies to Determine a Program's Effectiveness

By Deborah L. Vence

One of the most important things you can do to measure the effectiveness of your incentive program is to make sure that it's developed with measurable objectives—from the beginning.

"The first step I'd suggest for measuring the effectiveness of your program is to be certain to create the program around specific, measurable goals and activities," said Michelle M. Smith, CPIM, CRP, vice president of business development, O. C. Tanner.

"Those criteria should be firmly established at the onset of the program and clearly communicated to the program participants, with an equally clear message of specifically what they can do to contribute to the achievement of those goals, along with how and what they will be awarded for meeting and exceeding those goals," she explained.

The second step involves putting a process in place to track and measure results.

"The most successful programs track and review progress throughout the program so that adjustments can be made, if necessary, during the course of the program," Smith added, "rather than waiting until the end to analyze the results."

What to Consider When Determining Effectiveness

Instead of waiting until the end to evaluate results, clients need to look at success criteria before the design criteria even is put together, suggested Louise Anderson, vice president of the recognition sales division, Business Impact Group, Chanhassen, Minn.

"You have to make sure you know where the metrics are ahead of time. Know what your success metrics are," Anderson said.

As an example, a past client wanted to sell more of a new technology product. But, the question was in finding out from the client what some of its earliest indicators were. Through the process of examining success metrics early on, the client ended up reworking their ideas. The way the product was designed was different from the way it was set up to be sold.

Besides that, conducting a successful program also requires forethought and good design.

"I've found that lack of consistency in program execution and a perceived lack of fairness in program structures and/or award distribution are the most common factors cited in programs that fail to meet their intended objective, and these perceptions are to be avoided at all costs," Smith said.