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News Analysis: Why it's Time for More Certified Professionals in Incentives, Recognition, Loyalty and Leadership

Based on extensive research on rewards and recognition and the framework outlined in ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 Quality People Management standards, most current incentive, recognition and loyalty programs fall short in terms of design and implementation. At the same time, only a small percentage of the industry’s suppliers or buyers participate in the formal learning and certification programs developed by such organizations as the Incentive Marketing Association, Recognition Professionals International and others. Is there a connection? 

Why do so few people in the incentive, recognition and rewards business participate in the industry’s formal learning and certification programs? Recognition Professionals International and the Incentive Marketing Association, as well as The Culture Works, Loyalty Academy, and Society of Incentive Travel Executives, have created formal learning and certification programs, yet only a small portion of solution-providers or organizational practitioners participate. Based on almost irrefutable evidence that many programs fall short of best practices in terms of design and implementation, perhaps it’s time for both the companies that use these programs and their solution-providers to take greater advantage of the education and certification programs of the leading professional organizations. 
Since most people don’t participate in the industry learning programs, and the field is neither taught in business schools nor covered in the general business media with any authority, it’s not surprising that most incentive, recognition and loyalty programs overlook the research findings that cost organizations dearly in lost opportunities or worse (i.e., the recent Wells Fargo scandal). 
Given that U.S. organizations alone spend over $50 billion on incentive, recognition and loyalty programs, the time is ripe for both corporations and solution-providers to take advantage of the extensive research conducted over the last decade, the Enterprise Engagement framework developed by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance and ISO 9001 and 10018 Quality People Management standards to achieve the true value of their programs. 

The Most Common Mistakes 

Examine the average incentive, recognition, or loyalty program you experience as an employee, customer, or planner, and it’s easy to spot a number of common pitfalls:.
1. Too much focus on top performers and carrots. Most programs are structured in such a way that the top performers or most loyal customers always “win,” when both research and common sense have found that the best results come when the middle 60% are also addressed. Moreover, many programs often focus on carrots, which can promote short-term and sometimes even counter-productive behaviors. ISO standards and research indicate that people are more complicated than that, and that issues related to the brand’s values and culture, leadership, communication, knowledge and other tactics need to be addressed. What’s required is an overall system that “connects the dots” between objectives, audiences and results, when most organizations continue to operate under a highly siloed approach that cuts rewards and recognition off from the training, communications and other strategies that together deliver the best results. 
2. Little focus on the rewards experience. Almost all the research and common sense confirm that the biggest impact from rewards and recognition come from the emotional and personal connection between the organization and its stakeholders. Largely unaware of this research, most organizations offer essentially cash equivalents that create almost no emotional connection and do nothing to reinforce the brand. As a result, there is little distinction between recognition and compensation and, under these circumtances, rewards become expected and quickly forgotten rather than appreciated and remembered.
3. Failure to link recognition and engagement to organizational culture and values. Most recognition programs still focus on length of service when the big opportunity to is connect recognition strategies with employee engagement and commitment to the brand, culture, values, and goals. Modern recognition program focus on promoting brand engagement and on enabling and equipping front-line managers to inspire and retain valued members of the team. Recognition becomes an investment rather than a cost-center when organizations can track the behaviors and results they help inspire.
4. Erratic return-on-investment measurement. Both formal and informal surveys of incentive, recognition and loyalty solution-providers and practitioners indicate that most don’t include a formal measurement model other than whether or not a goal was achieved or the recipients had a positive experience. The Incentive Research Foundation website at TheIRF.org features a comprehensive program design and measurement tool know as the Master Measurement Model developed by experts at the American Productivity & Quality Center. To our knowledge, only a few organizations have seriously used or drawn inspiration from this platform.
Add to this the general lack of knowledge about effective program design and the reward experience - and almost no serious return-on-investment measurement - and it’s easy to see why such pitfalls occur. Helping organizations address these issues creates win-win opportunities for everyone, especially when the research confirms that when properly designed and implemented, incentive, recognition and loyalty programs can have a meaningful impact on the productivity and quality of organizational relationships with customers, distribution partners, sales and non-sales employees, vendors and communities. 
For cutting-edge marketing, sales, and human resources people who plan these programs, as well as their solution-providers, the new science and ISO standards provide a unique opportunity to significantly elevate the return on investment of these programs by: 
Applying common sense changes to program design and return-on-investment measurement both in the short term and the longer term 
Addressing the silo mentality that undermines the ability to properly integrate rewards and recognition effort with communications, learning and other engagement initiatives. In many large organizations, rewards and recognition efforts are essentially cut off from other initiatives such as training and communications, but addressing this challenge takes time.  

Engagement World in Galveston Brings Back Industry Training Under One Roof 

The only way to address this proliferation of poor program design is training. During the days of the industry’s Motivation Show, solution-providers in rewards, incentives, recognition and loyalty programs, as well as management in sales, marketing and human resources, attended the education programs of the various associations under one roof. This is now once again possible at Engagement World, May 7-9, in Galveston, TX, with the focus specifically on leading certification programs. 
Here is a list of the learning and certification programs available at Engagement World, as well as two others related to rewards and recognition. Click here to register for any of these programs. 
The Culture Works ‘All in Culture Training.’ Based on a global 300,000-person research study of high-performance managers, this half-day program teaches leaders the fundamental principles needed to develop a culture road map that enables managers to build a profitable, winning work-group culture, where employees give that extra push of effort that leads to outstanding results. 
Engagement World, Tue. May 8, 9 am-12 noon 
Incentive Marketing Association certifications. This learning program focuses on the fundamental elements of program design through a live or online learning program and test. The advanced CPIM designation (Certified Professional of Incentive Management) is based on demonstrating years of experience and ongoing participation in education. 
Engagement World, Tue. May 8, 1 pm-5 pm, including the Incentive Professional (IP) certification test.
Recognition Professionals International. The Certified Recognition Professional designation is earned through online and/or live training. It is based on a systematic approach to implementing recognition across the organization to achieve organizational goals and support the culture and values. 
Engagement World, Tue. May 8, 1 pm-4 pm 

Other Industry Certification Programs 

The Loyalty Academy. Managed by the Wise Marketer Group, offers certification for loyalty marketing professionals via online, in-person and customized in-house educational workshops and seminars. The Loyalty Academy also offers membership options that provide free access to loyalty marketing publications and tools, discounted tuition fees and discounted registration to the annual Loyalty Academy conference in the U.S. Training is available at this annual event and in live webinars. 
SITE Certified Incentive Specialist. This program is designed for newcomers to the incentive travel profession seeking to master best practices. There is both an online training program and a two-day, in-person workshop focusing on program design, what motivates people and the potential impact of incentive travel programs. 
The Enterprise Engagement Alliance’s Advanced Engagement Practitioner (AEP) certification program accepts continuing education credits for participation in any of these programs. An organization seeking to achieve ISO 10018 Quality People Management certification must employ someone with an Advanced Engagement Practitioner certification.

Article Sponsor: The Enterprise Engagement Alliance and Rewards & Recognition Expo
Elevate Your Expertise and Standards in Rewards and Recognition
Online: The Art & Science of Engaging Rewards e-book, a compilation of the leading conclusions of rewards and recognition research and the implications on program design and the rewards experience. 
In Print: Enterprise Engagement: The Roadmap 4th Edition, How 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. It includes chapters on Rewards and Recognition, Incentive Travel, Motivational Events and more.  
Learning: The Enterprise Engagement Academy, providing the only formal training on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 Quality People Management standards, which includes training on rewards and recognition. 
Live: The Rewards & Recognition Expo, May 8-9 in Galveston, TX, one hour south of Houston. Part of Engagement World, May 7-9, offering education, certification and exhibits in multiple areas of engagement focusing on new ways to maximize program design and the reward experience, featuring the leading brands, retail gift cards and master fulfillment companies active in the industry. 
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