Despite economic uncertainty, Canadian companies have increased their use of corporate employee incentive programs over the past two years, according to a study by Berkeley Payment Solutions. But the problem is many employers don't know if those incentive programs are actually motivating across all the age groups within their organization.

The 2012 Canadian Incentive Trends Survey found a steady year-over-year increase in the number of organizations using incentives for employee programs: a 46% increase from 2010, and a 21% increase from 2011.

Among those incentive efforts include sales and channel programs (38%), marketing programs (37%), referrals for new customers/employees (34%), contests/lotteries (28%), customer loyalty/appreciation programs (27%) and customer retention programs (14%).

"Our research shows that increasing employee motivation remains a top management priority in the coming year, with the majority of respondents telling us that this is the case within their organization," said David Eason, CEO of Berkeley Payment Solutions. "As a result we are seeing more and more Canadian companies adopt customized employee incentive programs to motivate and retain their employees-and ultimately improve overall company performance."

Yet, despite the high numbers of employers offering incentives, 36% of respondents said they either do not know if, or do not believe, their employee incentive programs motivate all target age groups within their organization. And 74% acknowledged that it is difficult to develop incentive programs that motivate a multi-generational workforce.

When it comes to motivating specific age categories, 46% said that all generational groups including matures (67+), boomers (48-66), gen Xers (33-47), and millennials (32 and under) are equally difficult to manage in terms of choosing the most appropriate incentive to offer. Of these groups, millennials were perceived as the most difficult to motivate with incentives (21%), followed by boomers (16%), matures (9%) and gen Xers (8%).

Of respondents who indicated they do not use incentives, budget constraints have remained the primary reason, with 46% of respondents in both 2011 and 2012 pointing to lack of budget. Similarly, of the respondents who plan to reduce or eliminate incentives in the next 12 months, 33% indicated it was due to reduced or no budget.

This article appeared in Benefits Canada

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