by Matt Alderton | February 13, 2013
In the financial services and insurance industries, rewards work — but only when they’re tailored to the individuals receiving them. So finds a new study released yesterday by Maritz Travel in partnership with LIMRA, a trade association representing financial services and insurance companies.

Based on a survey of more than 5,400 U.S. and Canadian agents at LIMRA member companies, the study — the “National Motivational Research Agent Study” — found that 83 percent of financial and insurance sales reps attribute some portion of their efforts to reward and recognition. Although that demonstrates the overall positive impact of rewards and recognition, the study concludes that traditional incentive strategies are no longer effective. Instead, it argues, companies that want to drive performance must design incentives based on what’s important to sales reps — not their employers.

“This study demonstrated that further emphasis needs to be placed on effective design to better engage financial services agents,” says Tom Wilson, financial services sector lead at Maritz.

To that end, Maritz evaluated agent producers of varying levels of performance to understand what motivates them. First, it asked agents about their personal values, the top three of which were “self-direction” (20 percent), which represents independent thought and action with regard to choices, creation and exploring; “achievement” (18 percent), which represents demonstrating one’s ability to perform based upon identified performance expectations; and “security” (16 percent), which represents safety, harmony and stability of relationships within one’s peer and organizational culture.

In addition, Maritz asked agents about specific elements of incentive travel programs that appeal to them. Key findings:

• Destination is a highly influential motivator in reward and recognition.
• Four-star inclusive properties are more appealing than five-star (not inclusive) properties.
• Producers prefer relaxing experiences and activities, suggesting the need to limit scheduled daytime activities.
• Respondents prefer shorter onsite business meetings, lasting no more than two hours.
• Younger agents prefer summer travel experiences in July or August.

Among all respondents, 76 percent said they would make some effort to earn their preferred travel experience, with 70 percent noting a high level of effort.

“There’s a strong correlation between agents’ perceptions of their company and the programs it offers; with these insights, it’s clear companies need to adjust program focus,” Wilson continues. “These data support the theory that participant experience is key when designing incentive travel programs.”

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