Talent crunch in the incentives industry

The challenges of filling senior positions are compounded by jobseekers’ aspirations.

An interview: potential jobseekers are increasingly prioritising areas such as compensation, benefits and flexibility
An interview: potential jobseekers are increasingly prioritising areas such as compensation, benefits and flexibility Photo Credit: Adobe stock/Jacob Lund

Employers within the incentives industry are facing new barriers when it comes to recruiting the next generation of talent. Potential jobseekers are increasingly prioritising areas such as compensation, benefits and flexibility - features not typically associated with a career in incentives, while low awareness of career progression routes is also seen as a major barrier to attracting talent.

When employers are introducing the industry to potential hires, the top ‘selling points’ are the opportunity to design creative incentives, international travel and developing new skills.

These are some of the findings from the Incentive Research Foundation’s (IRF) latest study, The Future Of The Incentives Industry Workforce, which was based on results from two surveys. One was an employer survey directed at professionals in MICE sector and those in the Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition (IRR) industries, while the second survey was based on responses drawn from employees and potential job seekers in both industries.

The findings were explored further during a recent webinar, entitled The Future of the Incentives Industry Workforce, featuring contributions from Alexa LeClaire, director, national accounts at Access Destination Services; Mike May, president, Brightspot Incentive & Events; Alan Schweyer, chief academic adviser at the IRF; and Stephanie Harris, IRF president.

“We’re experiencing a bright spot within the industry but the rebound and growth in incentives and events has exceeded current staffing levels, especially during the heavier, seasonal times, such as quarters one and two,” said May. “We’re trying to find the right balance of staff to keep up with demand.”

LeClaire highlighted that many people left the industry for other sectors during and post-pandemic and said that filling senior positions, or those which require solid experience, continues to be a challenge. May added that his business is having to become more creative when recruiting, such as looking at adjacent industries that might be a good fit, whether it is hiring somebody from a marketing communications background, from the agency side or from a hotel sales role.

Schweyer urged employers to overcome perceptions of career progression barriers by raising awareness of the range and depth of roles available within the incentives industry, which could span event manager, travel advisor or tech/IT specialist. “There's an enormous range of opportunities and career progression,” he said. “Most veterans of the industry, people who have several years of experience tend to stay in the industry, even though their skills are highly transferable.’

May reflected on how the role of those who deliver incentives has changed, and how the definition of an incentive today has helped elevate the concept within the industry.

“We’re looking at a different world than the one from 2019 - we’re bringing out the importance of designing creative incentives, doing creative work and creating experiences that inspire people,” he said. “We're not just throwing parties, we're not just putting people on planes or hosting dinners, we're doing things that hopefully inspire and motivate people to increase loyalty and build retention within organisations. It makes the job less ‘logistical’ and more professional and consultative.”