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How Covid-19 is changing the face of employee recognition

While incentive travel may have been all but wiped out by Covid-19, the need for employee reward and recognition hasn’t disappeared.

So what to do? That was the focus of last week’s M&IT webinar ‘Incentive travel in a pandemic? Where there’s a will…’, a fascinating discussion with a number of intriguing insights.

Engagement expert Holly Mills said: “There’s a huge need for employee engagement right now. Businesses are taking the opportunity to think about how they communicate with staff.

“Before Covid, we were seeing more of a trend towards inclusive, value-led incentives. There was already a trend to reach out to the wider business and not just individual departments. It’s good to see corporates considering whole company reward schemes, such as giving people more face to face with the senior leadership team.

“It’s a wider engagement piece. it’s encouraging to see corporates are considering how they communicate with the whole staff.”

Jack Grover, senior project executive at Seven Events, said: “In the digital world I do think recognition and reward seems more prominent. It’s at the forefront that corporates need to reward employees that they’re not seeing.”

Claire Gardner, operations director at Eventful, said that there’s been a marked shift in the focus of incentives in the last 10 years – and this has been accelerated by the move to virtual.

“We used to think the brand was how external people saw the brand – now there’s more focus on the internal brand,” she said. “They need to look internally and reward and recognise the people who sell the brand to the outside world.”

Mills added that she has seen a similar shift.

“We’re now working closely with HR, whereas historically we were working with sales directors, marketing,” she said. “There’s definitely more of a trend towards the employee experience rather than the customer.”

Gardner agreed, saying, “Virtual has helped you have the functionality to ask people what they want, what makes them feel valued. You’ve got the answer and that can be easily done in the virtual realm.”

“The advances that have been made in such a short time mean it’s so easy now to get really good analytics from your staff and create rich data,” added Grover. “Virtual definitely has its benefits.”

So while Covid-19 may have devastated incentives in the short term, there’s every chance that the lessons we’ve learned from virtual events could help incentive travel become even more rewarding for all concerned when it finally does return.