Brand Engagement

Where Will Engagement Budgets Come From?


I was talking with a senior practitioner for a top engagement agency recently about the issue of budgets. A prospect, he said, had mentioned that “Employee engagement is a very important topic around here, but I don’t know how I’m going to go about getting a budget for this right now.” The answer, I said, is that his prospect probably already has a budget for employee engagement – his company’s current incentive, recognition and benefits expenditures.

The Internet, social media, mobile technology and the great recession have all been incredibly disruptive, but one area that has remained impervious to change is traditional incentive, recognition and loyalty programs. Many of these efforts are baked into the organization’s culture and often go back decades, rewarding basic behaviors such as years of service, attendance, safety, wellness, productivity, quality, etc. From what we have seen, they’re often based on recognition and reward assumptions going back decades. According to the latest Incentive Federation research, spending for such programs totals over $75 billion annually. Almost every organization has some kind of budget for the purposes of rewarding and recognizing loyalty and service.

Over the last few years we’ve seen an increasing number of RFPs brought to us from EEA supporters seeking assistance with program design for recognition, incentive and loyalty programs. What we’ve noticed with an astonishing increase in frequency is a greater desire on the part of corporations to find new solutions to engaging people – to the extent that one company we recently assisted just changed the name of its “recognition” program to its “engagement” program.

This isn’t merely semantics. Research clearly indicates that much more goes into engaging people to accomplish goals than rewards & recognition. Engagement requires not only the effective use of rewards, but also the need to address other critical issues such as the mission and vision of the organization, communication with key audiences, learning systems to make sure people have the required capabilities, innovation and collaboration to foster task value and meaning, and measurement to provide useful feedback and a sense of purpose and ROI.

The same goes for customer engagement. Companies don’t need a new budget. They need only look at what they spend on loyalty, promotions, spiffs and incentives, and how they can apply formal engagement principles to achieve better, more measurable results.

The biggest challenge may be the traditional incentive, recognition, loyalty and promotional companies that have failed to grasp that engagement is for real and is more than a buzzword. It’s not enough for solution providers to put the word on their websites, it’s a matter of understanding a formal framework and implementation process, having the experience to design an effective engagement business plan and having the tools to implement solutions in a measurable way.

Learn how to make engagement happen for your organization, your department, or your own career at Engagement University in Denver, April 14-16. Go to for more information.

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