I’ve have been asked what makes or breaks an incentive program, and to also limit my response to a few minutes.

This requires me to focus on the critical elements that I will call the “big three.”

First, expertise and experience in the design of the program.

The challenge is when a program manager’s task with creating the program without the resident background, expertise and/or experience required. Without understanding the basic design issues and required trade-offs, the program manager can easily miss critical steps, under or over reward participants or fail to address the administrative and measurement requirements. Any one of these which can dramatically affect the program’s operation and success. It seems to many that designing an incentive program is easy. Just set a goal and offer rewards. Unfortunately, that is just not the case.

Number two, valuing the role of the implementation process.

Studies have shown that the program implementation can be as important or even more important than the program design. Effectively educating the managers of the program, participants and communicating the program are critical elements for the implementation process and are often shortchanged. If the managers are not prepared to support and manage the incentive program, the participants generally take this as a sign the program is not really that important. Additionally, poor or limited program communications minimize program visibility and once again signal that the incentive program is not a top priority.

Number three, ongoing monitoring and fine tuning the program.

Once the program is implemented, the tendency can be to put it on “autopilot.” This is especially prevalent when a program is designed by a team and once it is launched, the team disperses and no one is assigned to or accountable for the program’s operation and ultimate success.

This “if we build it, they will perform” approach underestimates the need and value to manage and fine tune the program. Monitoring the activity, identifying and recognizing early achievements and addressing issues and questions that arise are all a part of this ongoing management to ensure success.

So, from my point of view, these are the big three, expertise and experience in the design of the program, valuing the role of the implementation process, ongoing monitoring and fine tuning of the program. Addressing these critical elements effectively will certainly increase your program’s success and minimize the possibility of an incentive program breakdown.

This is Roger Stotz wishing you all great success.