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IRR Industry Faces Talent Challenges Due to Low Awareness

This survey of incentive professionals and prospective employees finds an industry facing staff shortages and recruiting challenges because few people have ever heard of the incentive industry and what it does. However, once people join the industry, they tend to stay, the study finds.
Figure 8The lack of industry awareness hurts the IRR (Incentive, Rewards, and Recognition) field not only in the marketplace for customers, but in the market for talent, according to this recent Incentive Research Foundation study.
More than 75% of incentives professionals surveyed are experiencing staffing shortages; yet, more than half of 97 industry respondents (professionals working in MICE or IRR) rate awareness of opportunities in IRR as virtually non-existent. More than 80% believe potential candidates have a minimal awareness of the field. Fewer than 10% believe awareness of opportunities in the IRR field is strong among new potential recruits.
The study explores the need for new, next generation talent in the incentives and meetings industries, and the challenges in attracting and retaining that talent in a post-pandemic world. It is based on the results from two surveys: an employer survey directed at professionals in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events field (MICE) and the IRR industries (97 respondents) and another directed at workers; job seekers (372 respondents); and from ten in-depth interviews with professionals and workers from the industry.
About one-quarter of the worker/job seeker respondents and interviewees fall between 16-20 years of age, while slightly more than half are 31-50 years old. Almost 60% hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
Figure 12 & 13The survey finds that “more than three-quarters of professionals in the MICE and IRR industry are experiencing current talent/skills shortages. These include planners, project managers, event managers, cooks, a range of event tech and IT specialists, operations, contracting and purchasing professionals, salespeople, travel operations and planners, incentive designers, creative and strategic professionals, as well as mid-level workers and hospitality staff in general.”
Employer respondents and interviewees believe that new recruits to the industry seek, foremost, competitive compensation. The desire for flexible work arrangements and work-life balance; career advancement and meaningful work round out the top five drivers of job seekers. In general, workers and job seekers agree that competitive pay and flexible work options/ability to work remotely rank first and second in what they are looking for in a new position. Competitive standard benefits (e.g., healthcare, 401k matches, etc.) come third, followed by interesting work and career advancement opportunities.
Interestingly, “when asked to consider what might be most attractive about joining the IRR field, workers and job seekers cite the opportunity to create and design incentives as the clear favorite. Many also savor the chance to travel internationally and develop new skills. For the MICE industry, respondents cite a wider variety of attractors. Again, creating and designing—in this case meetings and events—holds the greatest appeal, closely followed by the opportunity to travel internationally and learn and acquire new skills. Industry respondents also point out that when they lose employees, they tend to move within the industry rather than to related or other industries.”

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