Feature Article - July/August 2015

Finding the Right Tools

What's in Your Technology Toolkit?

By Brian Summerfield

Technology is a double-edged sword. It can deliver amazing productivity and efficiency gains for incentives program managers—that is, until they realize that keeping up with the never-ending stream of new products, services and platforms is practically a full-time job unto itself.

Fortunately, Premium Incentive Products magazine is here to help you separate the wheat from the chaff (to use a decidedly low-tech metaphor). We talked to a pair of experts who explained what's high-value and what's hype, and how you can figure out the difference.

6 Tech Tools Every Incentives Program Manager Should Use…

If you had to filter all of the technologies you use to run an incentives program down to a handful, which ones would you throw out and which ones would you keep? Here are the most essential tech tools for rewards and recognition, according to industry experts.

1. Central Platform: This is a one-stop shop for most every single element of your incentives program as it relates to end users, said Rick Blabolil, president of Marketing Innovators International, based in the Chicago area. It can deliver content, program information, leader boards, reports, videos, award options and more to all program participants. It also should include login credentials that serve up relevant information to each category of your audience.

2. Video: For teams, departments and enterprises that are geographically dispersed, live or recorded video of recognition events is a great way for employees to emotionally relate with colleagues who are acknowledged and praised, even if they've never met or don't know each other well. "The personal aspect of any recognition is the most important," said Autumn Manning, CEO of YouEarnedIt, an employee-rewards software provider based in Austin. "Being able to personally connect to the person you are recognizing is where true connection and change can happen."

3. Social Recognition: Along those same lines is social recognition, which Blabolil called "the most underrated technology." Simply put, it's about using social media in its various forms to not only recognize outstanding performances, but also strengthen bonds among employees. "Connecting people is critical," Blabolil said. "Creating communities within your program—where people of similar interests can connect, engage and recognize each other without an associated award cost to the company—is a simple yet extraordinarily effective way to get people to engage one another."

4. Analytics: This includes measuring both the effectiveness of the program's architecture and interfaces, and the change in performance and behavior among employees, Blabolil said. Consequently, this can include everything from most popular pages and search terms to increased sales and customer satisfaction. After reviewing your metrics, you can ideally say two things: first, that people understand what they're being asked to do in exchange for rewards and recognition, and second, that they found the program relevant and engaging.

5. UX: Short for user experience, UX is related to analytics. Essentially, this is a tool or system that gauges the ways in which users are interacting with the incentives program platform. When it identifies problems related to site architecture, functionality or some other element, it flags those issues and even recommends fixes. "Such tools are used in the B2C world, but are only now beginning to be integrated into the B2B targeted programs," Blabolil said.

6. Text: As Manning pointed out, the power of text is in how it allow users to generate messages in an "easy, simple, relevant and personalized" way. And given how quickly texts can be sent, it can be a platform for real-time feedback.