The newly released 2022 Incentive Travel Index (ITI) reports that, overall, the incentive travel industry is strong....
Research / Academic Research in Action: Social Exchange Theory
by Allan Schweyer
Social Exchange Theory (SET) evolved in the 1950s from early 20th century behaviorism and reinforcement theory – the notion that people act in response to positive stimuli or to avoid negative stimuli. SET extends positive and negative stimuli to include social recognition (good and bad). It suggests that people will stay in relationships or with organizations if they believe the benefits (recognition and rewards) of doing so exceed the costs.
Social Exchange Theory is “viewed as one of the most influential theories for understanding behavior in the workplace” (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005; Tate, Lartey, and Randall, 2019; Homans, 1961). Hence, it is central to the efficacy of recognition, incentives and rewards programs. SET is typically leveraged in the workplace through non-cash social recognition programs where “coverage is pervasive and extends to a substantial majority of the firm’s employees” (Long, Richard, J. and Shields, J.L. 2010).
In worker motivation, ‘social recognition’ has deep research-based origins from behaviorism (Skinner 1969; Bandura 1969; Stajkovic and Luthans 1997) and in models of motivation (Maslow 1943; Herzberg 1996; Cherrington 1991). A large and growing body of empirical research supports the theory that social recognition has significant positive effects of employee performance (Stajkovic and Luthans 1997, 2003).
It is worthwhile then, to examine related research from the past and present to find actionable insights that reward program designers can use internally or in advice to their clients on how to improve employee engagement, retention, and performance through the application of SET in social recognition programs. This may be especially important in the current pandemic-recovery context where many organizations struggle to return to productivity and satisfy burgeoning customer demand with fewer people, even while large numbers of employees expect to be able to work remotely and flexibly.
The Incentive Research Foundation’s Industry Outlook for 2023: Merchandise, Gift Cards and Event Gifting reports an optimistic outlook for 2023 despite continuing challenges to the global economy. With a critical focus on attracting and retaining talent, businesses consider non-cash incentive programs to be a valuable tool to motivate a changing workforce.
IRF President Stephanie Harris and IRF Chief Research Adviser Rick Garlick present this useful analysis of how incentive, rewards and recognition programs are being designed and budgeted for 2021.