IMA Releases Video Response to GSA 'Hats Off' Program

The Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) has directly responded to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) “Hats Off” incentive program and the negative media attention surrounding it. On May 4, the association posted a two-and-a-half-minute video pointing out the failures of the program and distinguishing it from properly run incentives in general.

In the video, IMA President Dave Peer states that while the IMA “supports Congress’ probe of the agency’s mismanagement,” but that, “properly designed and managed incentive programs are very effective.” He emphasizes that the type of events supported by the IMA have clear goals, controls, and measures.

Peer goes on to cite statistics that support appropriate programs, such as that employees are able to improve on-the-job performance by as much as 27 percent when rewarded in the right way. Additionally, he says companies that run these programs report higher profits, better sales, and stronger productivity than those that do not.

The decision to release the video is part of the IMA’s effort to aggressively respond to negative portrayals of incentive programs in general, which has resulted from the high-profile excesses of “Hats Off.” Peer aims to make it clear that this specific, mismanaged program is quite different from the vast majority of correctly executed engagement and recognition efforts.

“With this recent GSA malfeasance, we couldn’t just sit idly by,” said Peer. “We had to use some way to get our message out that the GSA effort was inconsistent with the standards and procedures of professional incentive managers.”

In part, the response is a continuation of the IMA’s ongoing lobbying and public relations effort sparked by the backlash against the 2008 AIG retreat to a St. Regis resort and spa after the company received an $85 billion bailout. It quickly turned into a skepticism if not outright anger aimed at the entire idea of incentives and the association determined it must take steps to clarify the value of well-managed programs.

“We felt we cannot be caught flatfooted and be negatively impacted by the misdeeds of those who had nothing to do with our industry,” said Peer. “Our industry has a many-decades-long track record of providing excellent business results through professionally designed incentive programs, and to have it labeled as a negative was something we could not allow to happen.”

In addition to the video, the IMA is working to get the word out to media, “redouble its efforts with congress,” as well as partnering with other industry associations to continue getting research out about the impact and value of properly run incentives. Peer also sites the growing use of certification programs, which will ensure that planners are being educated in proper incentive practices.

“We were reactive in the old days and didn’t realize how important it was to get the message out there,” said Peer. “We want to do the best we can so people appreciated the difference between professionally designed and managed incentive programs and what the GSA did.”