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Employee Motivation: Presentation, Professional Development Are Key to Award Experience

Award presentation, professional development and work locale all are key factors in effective employee motivation, according to a study released in November by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF).

The IRF and Intellective Group were commissioned by the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) in the spring of 2015 to produce the study, which discovered that employee award programs should be as heavily vested in presentation and professional development as they are in the award itself. It also was indicated that programs should be moderated for the employee's work environment and sensitive to an employee's individual preferences.

A number of myths were uncovered as well, surrounding employee awards, showing how organizations should focus more on individual employee needs and not generational assumptions.

"We know from this study that sometimes more than half of what determines a preferred experience are elements other than the reward. Creating an effective award experience means we must know how employees want to be recognized, by whom and with what types of professional development implications (special projects, etc.)," said Melissa Van Dyke, president of the IRF.

"It also means we must make it personal. For example, knowing their favorite colors, hobbies, heroes and anything else that will make the recognition personally meaningful," she said.

Moreover, the study defined the employee total award experience to include not only the specific physical reward itself, but also the person who recognizes the recipient, how the award is communicated, and what professional impact the award carries (for example, being allowed special networking, mentors or assignments).

"We have known for years in our industry that anecdotally cash is not always king. So, it is not surprising that this study confirmed that," Van Dyke said.

"We have also always known that while the award was a vital element, other factors—such as how the recognition occurs and what a person's work environment is—were important. We did not realize how important these were until this study," she added. "We were also surprised at how similar millennials were to the other generations, not as different as often touted."

Below are four key findings from the study: