Feature Article - January/February 2019

Inside The IESP

Incentive Engagement & Solutions Providers Offer Companies Better Resources, Knowledge

By Deborah L. Vence


A few years ago, the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) decided to combine three existing strategic industry groups (SIGs) within the IMA to form one—the Incentive Engagement & Solutions Providers (IESP). Since then, the IESP has worked to provide better resources and knowledge to members, and help businesses accomplish their goals. In fact, its mission statement is: "to be a trusted resource for business leaders globally in helping their organizations achieve results through engagement and incentive solutions."

"We had three long-standing strategic industry groups (SIGs) within the IMA: the Global Incentive Council, the Performance Improvement Council and the Recognition Council. However, things had leveled off for these groups. We weren't getting any traction. It made sense to look at our common goals and work together," said Peter Cannon, president of the IESP, and president of Ticket Jones, a company that provides event tickets (sports, concert, theater) to the incentive industry.

"The IMA board approved the merger of the three SIGs into one new SIG called the Incentive & Engagement Solution Providers (IESP), which launched in 2016," Cannon said. "Regardless of whether you were developing programs to recognize years of service or reward the top sales team, what members had most in common was [that] they were all solution providers."

The IESP members viewed themselves as a hub for the industry. "Together our members have a vast collection of resources between friendly competitors," Cannon said. "By bringing all of that information together, we could learn from each other and share best practices and the latest ideas, and we could more effectively collaborate on outreach to educate businesses and help them get buy-in and support for their programs.

"Our focus has been on creating new resources such as white papers, toolkits, blogs and webinars. This way the IMA members can take advantage of our shared knowledge, and we can provide tools to help businesses."

Cindy Mielke, CPIM, vice president, marketing and sales operations, GC Incentives, a division of Giftcertificates.com, and director of the IESP, was one of the leaders who started the discussion among the three former SIGs. "We aligned under the unified goals we had in common so that we could do more as a team than we could as disparate groups," she said. "As with anything new, it has taken some time to get re-established, but I am excited to see the traction the IESP is gaining as we enter our fourth year."

David Gould, vice president of the IESP, and CEO of CR Worldwide, a company that specializes in employee recognition programs, said "IESP members are resources for people who are responsible for developing programs that engage, motivate and drive behaviors that improve business performance.

"Our membership is comprised of experts focused on helping companies create, launch, execute and manage these programs," he said. "We're there to provide guidance to help them be successful."

On the subject of trends, IESP board members also shared their views on the latest developments in this area of the market. One trend, for example, is more technology for improved program delivery.

"We're seeing more technology to support program design as well as fulfillment," Gould said. "The online platforms allow for more consistency and fairness for employees and customers anywhere in the world."

He noted that "If you have an existing intranet or employee portal, a reward and recognition platform can integrate seamlessly using single-sign-on. Including a points banking system is a great way of engaging employees and ensures consistency in a global program, without having to acknowledge currencies in the front end."

"Embracing a culture of recognition through a centralized platform—and engaging managers in the system—enables businesses to mandate and standardize methods of appreciation, ensuring they're equal and consistent," Gould added. "It can also enable employers to create behavioral changes within their organization by inspiring employees to achieve specific goals, and to embed the belief and understanding that performance will be acknowledged positively."

If implemented with company values in mind and the correct senior-level buy-in, such a platform can act as a key communication tool in celebrating successes and driving improved performance across multiple locations.

"Features such as recognition walls and galleries provide additional opportunities to recognize employees and add value over and above the monetary or physical reward," he said. "It can also be a way for employees across different locations to recognize each other using peer-to-peer nominations. This ensures that the program is accessible at all levels, and not just driven by management.

"In the most sophisticated platform offerings, you will find a host of functionalities developed specifically to encourage employee performance and motivation that can be directly attributed to bottom line results," he said.

Companies also will have a single source of reporting to be able to track the success of the program and prove ROI, ensure consistency and control budgets.

Earlier this year, the IESP released a white paper, "Overcoming Challenges to Recognizing Performance in a Multicultural Workforce." Technology was one of the essential elements of effective program design.

In the white paper, for example, Gould pointed out a reference to the use of a Web-based platform. It stated, "Contributors were polled to identify several performance recognition programs that have been successfully launched on a global scale."