In a recent Rewards Recognition Network (RRN) article, we quoted recognition innovator Cheston Elton, who has now become a major proponent of the broader field of engagement, as saying: “When someone hits their five-year anniversary and a company sends them a link to a catalog, the real message is ‘We don’t know you at all. Hopefully there is something in the 500 things in the catalog that will make you happy.’ When you know someone, you don’t give them a catalog.”  

Elton’s instincts have been confirmed by a new study produced for the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), which found that the manner in which rewards are given is almost as important as what we actually give. It turns out that the true impact of rewards is based on the sincerity with which they are selected and given.

This research, produced by Megg Withinton with Intellective Group, confirms the concept of “engaging rewards” that is the foundation of The study was based on in-depth questions asked of over 450 program participants of different demographics and job titles, finding that the intrinsic elements of award selection and presentation are as important as the extrinsic elements.

Selecting awards is as much of a science as media selection in advertising – maybe more so – since it demands a careful understanding of the company’s brand, the message it wishes to convey, the recipient, his or her significant other and family, and the company as a whole. And because this reward is presumably being given to someone important to the organization, selection and presentation are even more critical.

Based on almost all of the research we know of, rewards, when used properly, have nothing to do with compensation; they are a means of expressing personal gratitude for the loyalty and performance of people in a way that resonates throughout his or her community of loved ones and the organization as a whole.

The science of the proper use of rewards & recognition is as much in its infancy as the field of engagement, and once more we have the Incentive Research Foundation and its industry sponsors to thank for providing the necessary evidence.

Written by Bruce Bolger