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News Analysis: 2018 R&R Expo Exposes Big Opportunities, Challenges for Industry

While this year’s R&R Expo made it clear that the rewards and recognition industry is ready to meet the need for more focus on the reward experience, the industry clearly has challenges when it comes to the issue of program design. 
Nearly 150 people representing all aspects of the rewards and recognition industry came together at the Rewards & Recognition Expo, May 7-9 in Galveston, for two days of education and commerce. Focused on elevating the industry based on over 10 years of compelling research from the Incentive Research Foundation and multiple sources, as well as new ISO standards that include rewards and recognition that apply to over a million companies worldwide, the R&R Expo education program made clear that while the industry is doing a lot to find new ways to enhance the rewards experience, the typical client is not providing incentive and recognition companies with the vital information needed for effective program design. 
Here are some key takeaways from this year’s Expo: 
Despite all the research and talk of best practices, clients aren’t turning to this industry for program design and may not even respect its value. In a plenary session attended by management from leading incentive, recognition and loyalty companies, as well as leading brands and fulfillment companies, every hand went up when asked if the audience believed that program design was critical to program success. Yet when asked how many felt their clients provided the information necessary to properly design a program, not one hand was raised. Earlier, during a session on ISO 10018 certification, every attendee from an incentive or recognition company said they almost never receive the level of detail provided in the case study exercise, which was no more than routine information about customer and employee engagement survey scores, talent turnover rates and the leadership training, communication and other tactics typically used to engage people. (The EEA had easily received this information from the hospital involved in the case study.) How can anyone plan any type of program without such basic information? 
This industry has a major branding problem with corporate practitioners. If companies are spending billions of dollars on rewards and recognition programs from companies they don’t entrust with basic information use to design programs, what does that say about their respect for the rewards and recognition industry or the seriousness with which they measure results? Any company can provide the information needed to design a proper process. That they often don’t provide it to this industry suggests that they either don’t respect the importance of program design, turn to the rewards and recognition industry primarily for rewards only, or utilize their own internal resources or other experts for program design. 
Industry interest in increasing professionalism is on the rise. All told, almost one-third of the attendees at the event participated in certification training. Thanks in part to the sponsorship of Hinda Incentives, about two dozen people attended the Incentive Marketing Association’s Incentive Professional program to gain their Incentive Practitioner certification. About the same number attended the paid ISO 10018: Enterprise Engagement in Action certification preparation program. One attendee of the ISO 10018 session completed her Certified Engagement Practitioner course within a day of returning home. The opportunity now is to use this expertise to educate corporate management on the importance of systematic process design and not just rewards. 
The business of “things” is thriving. While the education programs exposed serious oversights related to the importance of program design, the level of innovation related to rewards and recognition experiences and engagement tools was impressive among both exhibitors and attendees. Most exhibitors were eager to talk about new ways to enhance the reward experience -- a number of them, including Bulova, Castle Merchandising, Tumi and Maui Jim, among others -- all say they now offer branded reward experiences at client events, and education attendees included companies such as Enterprise Engagement Performance Management, offering tools for ROI management, Motivational Maps for individualized engagement and career laddering, and Beyond360, an engagement portal technology that can support ISO 10018 compliance. 

The Enterprise Engagement Alliance Learning Services
Master the Principles of Incentive and Recognition Program Design and Best Practices
In Print: Enterprise Engagement: The Roadmap 4th EditionHow to Achieve Organizational Results Through People and Quality for ISO 10018 Certification
The first and most comprehensive book on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards has extensive information on the latest design principles of incentive, recognition, and loyalty programs. 
Online: The Enterprise Engagement Academy at EEA.tmlu.org, providing the only formal training on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards. It provides a free training program on the latest Rewards and Recognition practices. 
For more information, contact Nick Gazivoda at 914-591-7600, ext. 238, or Nick@TheEEA.org
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