While the Covid pandemic is finally easing out restrictions on travel, workplace dynamics, business patterns and operations, its impact still seems to linger on other aspects till date. The major area being affected is the workforce and its management. The ‘great resignation, work re-modelling and labour shortages’ gave the biggest concerns to employers. It re-engineered the traditional work patterns and systems for most organisations. The shortages in labour and mass resignations has necessitated employers and organisations to revitalise Incentives and motivations more than ever before.
And though the global economic outlook is doubtful this year, owing to the influence of recession and inflation, there are expectations that are to come from Incentive specialists in the business market this year. The IRF (Incentives Research Foundation) in their IRF 2023 Business Trend Report, highlights 8 areas where professional incentive experts need to prioritise and focus this year. The IRF 2023 Trends Report – Incentive Research Foundation
Expanded Role of Professionals: According to IRF, “Incentive, Recognition and Reward programs will be expected to have a broader and deeper impact” this year, especially in these areas.
- Employee Motivation and Retention: The expectations of employees are to be met and retention of employees is key for employers this year. The aim is to delight and retain staff. In the report, a third-party provider commented, “More stakeholders are also jumping in to ensure incentives are not just driving sales but are a retention tool as well. HR is playing a bigger role in decisions.”
- Improving Workplace Culture: There is more demand in scaling employee welfare and wellness. To concentrate on the wellbeing of employees.
- High level Reporting: More reports are required by stakeholders, especially for reports on trends analysis, and predicable measurable ROI for incentive programs.
Scaling Back: While travel numbers will increase this year, by 48%, the challenge of staffing and inventory in hotels is still existing as there are high hotel demands. These staffing shortages affects planning, programs, and experience for travels. To mitigate these issues Incentive program owners are utilising part-time contractors and, in some cases, their own staff to cover the gaps. In addition to this is the rising cost of air fares, transportation and surcharges, leading to program planners having to defend budgets more.
Travel planning Ramp Up: Travel activities are expected to be more this year, “the Incentive Travel Index reported that 56% of buyers increasing per person spending over 2019 levels”. More travel programs are expected to be tied to corporate goals, promote bonding and be more exciting and memorable.
Rewards Value: Inflation has been the biggest challenge for budgeting in Incentive and travel in recent times, this has created a higher perception value for gift cards, merchandise, and point programs. Noncash rewards will add more flexibility to employees’ rewards package and save costs.
Demand Urgency: There is more demand and pressure for quick turn round times in the travel supply chain. The pandemic pace of slow response to travel details and requirements no longer cut it and as costs have also increased across the board on travel, faster service is expected by clients.
Destination Preferences: The rise in travel costs, flight options and certainties is informing for more local destinations, and though buyers are contracting the distance to save costs, they are exploring newer places to visit. More Incentive travel trips are headed towards Western Europe at an increasing pace. “Surveys conducted during March and April for Incentive Travel Destination Preferences & Their Impact on Motivation placed Western Europe as the furthest destination in the top ten destinations preferred by employees. Data collected in May – July for the Incentive Travel Index shows that Western Europe had a growing appeal, ranking as the fifth most popular location as North American planners looked ahead”. -IRF (Incentive Research Foundation).
Employee Downtime Opportunities: Work downtime is at an all time high with remote workers and travel participants now that travel restrictions are better. Relaxation is high on the list for incentive travel attendees. Attendees want more flexibility in their travel programs (within group activities and programs). Incentive professionals were asked a similar question for the Incentive Travel Index, “46% noted that free time was key to a successful program”- IRF. Attendees’ desire for downtime also alleviates the pressure of costs tied to inflation and should be a welcome trend for incentive travel program planning. Hotels amenities such as pools and onsite amenities are effective, downtime can be at no-cost way for attendees to relax and have their needs met. Communications should be in place to have attendees return to more structured programming after downtime and optional activities.
Sustainability inclusion in Client’s needs: Sustainable options for client’s incentive needs is key, especially for meetings, events, travel venues and transport. Sustainable practices is top of mind for clients and is in demand for inclusion in RFPs. Important indexes such as carbon footprints and environmental friendly plans should be of priority to program planning. While cost may be a challenge, but value proposition to clients could help sway their decision for consideration.