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Tips for Jump Starting Employee Recognition Program ROI

Originally published as a guest post at

In our last post we noted that smart organizations are actively investing in their people. Measuring the ROI of these investments can be of great value. In short, measurement can help justify, defend and improve these programs.

Don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. The “paralysis of analysis” effect is common when companies decide that measuring results is a good idea. The beauty of the ROI Methodology® described in the previous blog is that it provides a logical evaluation framework and a process model, a step-by-step approach to getting the job done well.


Keep it Simple. The most important tip when getting started is to keep it simple. Keeping things simple reduces the risk of missteps and helps ensure that your measurement efforts are sustainable.

Four Tips for Getting Started

1. Measure Lower Levels first

2. Use Few, Simple Measures

3. Calendar It, Then Do It

4. Make Measurement Pay

1. Measure Lower Levels First 

Return on Investment (Level 5) is undoubtedly the ultimate measure, but starting measuring ROI can be daunting. In contrast, measuring how participants think and feel about the program (Level 1, Satisfaction/Reaction) and whether they fully understand the program rules and expectations being placed on them (Level 2, Learning/Understanding) can be done easily and can provide amazingly rich insight. When done well, this level of measurement can effectively validate success and identify both barriers and enablers to performance. Knowing these can guide mid-program adjustments and show the way to evidence-based program improvements.


2. Use Few, Simple Measures

Determining measures is simply a process of identifying objectives for Levels 1 and 2. Ask yourself, “What does success look like?” Levels 1 and 2 objectives typically revolve around enthusiasm, confidence, trust, fairness, relevance, attainability, and planned action.

Next, be discerning. Measure only the things that you are prepared to take action on. For example, don’t ask sales people if they believe that the incentive program is attainable unless you are willing to consider modifying the rule structure.

3. Calendar It, Then Do It

Advance planning ensures that you measure at the right times. Poor planning can lead to questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups that are completed late and, therefore, of less value. This can frustrate participants and limit your organization’s ability to use the findings to make meaningful improvements. Ultimately, lack of timeliness may signal lack of commitment and damage the organization’s credibility among stakeholders.

4. Make Measurement Pay

Now that you have gained valuable insight into what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do about it, the fun begins. Create an impact report that includes an executive summary of findings, all relevant data and an action plan. Then, get it into the hands of key stakeholders and gain approval to implement the action plan.

In summary, the benefits from measuring results of people performance improvement programs can be huge. Use the four tips above to start realizing the power of measurement in your organization now. In the words of General George S. Patton:

“A good plan executed now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”


Measuring Engagement ROI – Getting Started

Originally published as a guest post at

Good news. Labor productivity continued to increase in America throughout 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of this improvement is fueled by innovation and technology. An unidentified portion of this improvement has come from a practice that originated during the Great Recession of 2008: increased expectations placed on the current workforce.

We’ve all seen it. Reduced workforce, longer hours, higher demands, lower or non-existent raises and trimmed benefits. It isn’t a surprise Gallup has found that 71 percent of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work.

As the economy improves, smart organizations are shifting their strategy and beginning to actively invest in their people. We see it in renewed commitments to people performance management initiatives, namely incentives, rewards, recognition and loyalty programs.

Measurement Gap

When it comes to large investments in people, conversations frequently turn to return on investment or ROI. It’s a fair question. When organizations invest millions, they typically expect a financial analysis. Unfortunately, little action has been taken in the past to provide an objective answer.

Fear has been a frequent obstacle. What if measurement reveals poor results? Not knowing where to begin has been another challenge. Measuring ROI on traditional capital investments can be rather straightforward. Measuring results of an investment in people is a whole different animal.

ROI MethodologyTM

Getting started isn’t that hard any more. Over the last 25 years, the ROI Institute has developed and refined measurement and created a methodology that provides consistent and credible results. One of the secrets has been a logical approach to categorizing a myriad of possible metrics into five levels. The five levels include the following:

1. Reaction and Planned Action

2. Understanding and Learning

3. Application and Implementation

4. Business Impact

5. Return on Investment


Using this approach to organizing program objectives becomes beneficial when you consider the need to achieve success with Level 1 in order to assure success with Level 2 and so on, right up to Level 5, ROI. In other words, we don’t just measure business impact and ROI without understanding what is going on in the heads and hearts of participants.

Another key to success with this methodology is the philosophy surrounding its use. When used properly, it serves as an effective process improvement tool. During the evaluation of a program, barriers and enablers to success will be identified. The real treasure to be found in identifying barriers, because once gaps are identified solutions can be developed and deployed.

The Process

Another benefit to the ROI Methodology™ is that it prescribes a step-by-step process to complete the evaluation of a program. Specifically, it provides a process to plan the evaluation, collect data, analyze data, calculate ROI and develop a report.

This process takes a seemingly complicated task and makes it doable. In fact, the ROI Methodology™ is used by thousands of organizations, including Marketing Innovators, who guide clients through the process in order to measure ROI for a multitude of programs. The net result is enabling more companies to build the business case for investment in their people.

In my next post, I’ll explore how to get started and make an investment in measurement pay off.



Deja Vu, All Over Again

Rewind to 2008. The economy stumbles, confidence is rattled, anger flares and finger pointing begins in the meeting and event world. "Corporate extravagance! Waste! Boondoggle!" And leadership was left unable to defend their investment in people, unable to prove the ROI of meetings, incentives and events.

Fast forward to 2012. Things are looking up; attendees, flight loads, occupancy, spend, etc.  There is cautious optimism in the air - things appear to be coming back!

This time around, wouldn't it be nice to be prepared for the next cycle? If you could prove the value of your company's investment in people, could we prevent the manic cycle of boom and collapse we've experienced over the years. We believe the key to doing this is to measure the results of all your meetings and events. And in some cases, actually measure ROI.

Measurement is fundamentally a process improvement tool. Armed with the ability to prove value, though, it can effectively serve as a way to defend existing programs and justify future investment.

So, what are you doing to build the business case for your organization's investment in people? We would like to know.

Join us while we teach The why's and how's of measurement at our five day ROI Certification Course.


Engagement Drives Earnings Per Share (EPS). "Right, prove it to me."

Engagement is a good thing. Most executives understand that. But how far do you really need to go in order to do the right thing and create an enaged work force? I mean, should it always be give, give, give?

There has been meaningful debate on the subject of how far a company should go to "make" employees happy. In fact, there have been some very poignant rants about how engagement works both ways. In other words, employees need to do their part and not sit around waiting for their employer to engage them. David Zinger, well known engagement guru writes about employee contributions to engagement here. You can follow him at @DavidZinger.

On the other hand, every corporate leader should know financial facts about engagement. And they are facts.

In 2005, Gallup reviewed data from 332 organizations. They used the scientific process and statistical analysis to identify correlations and  develop a conclusion. For the skeptics and analytical types, you can review the key data and findings in the Gallup Management Journal article by clicking on the following icon.


The results.... drum roll please...

Higher levels of employee engagement correlate with higher earnings per share. Fact.




Virtual Meetings Results – The Dirty Little Secret about Digital Events

Measuring the Impact of Meetings:  From In Person to Virtual and In Between
Over the past couple of years the economic pressure has made every company rethink and reevaluate almost every expense line in the budget.  Coupled with negative media scrutiny of “boondoggles”, extravagant executive retreats, decadent meetings and events – the “meetings” industry has been hit hard. 

If you traditionally operated meetings or events of any sort, the rules that govern their design and implementation changed fast.

Hoping to avoid not only the expense but the unplanned scrutiny of major meetings, planners and executives have been looking for ways to reduce the costs and still realize the benefits of getting their teams together to train, share best practices, network, build esprit de corps  and in general, enhance engagement during this tough business cycle.

These issues have given rise to more companies considering virtual events as well as hybrids where there is an in person audience and a virtual audience.  But this is still new territory for most companies and meeting planners and questions about their effectiveness abound.

The Virtual Meeting and Event Dirty Little Secret
Everybody is asking but nobody is proving whether digital events are effective. There you have it, the industry's dirty little secret. It reveals a huge gap that exists and is currently being filled by using extensive web analytics-style metrics that measure activity such as logins, streaming content and downloads. Don't get me wrong. These are all important measures but they only measure activity and not the impact on the person seated in front of the monitor on the receiving end of the meeting or event.

This is exactly why The ROI of Engagement Team is  working with partners developing the tools necessary for planning, operating and most importantly – measuring the impact and effect of virtual and hybrid events.

Stepping Up
Most meeting and event planners know that measuring audience satisfaction is a key element of measuring an event’s impact.  But we also know this doesn’t satisfy most CFOs, CEOs or other executives.  These executives want to know if the event did anything to really drive engagement, and ultimately, business impact, revenues and profits.  

With virtual and hybrid events, the event sponsor can’t interact with some or all the attendees so it is even more difficult to judge whether the event was successful.  Because of a poor “line of sight” virtual and hybrid events need more analysis.

Virtual Edge Summit
Working with the Virtual Edge Summit, we applied the comprehensive ROI MethodologyR to measure their “hybrid” event held in February of 2010.  The initial study measured what we call Level 1 and 2 – Reaction/Satisfaction, and Learning/Understanding.  Further work will be done to address the next three levels in the methodology: Application, Impact, and ROI.

To see our initial findings for Phase I of the analysis click here to download the white paper.  The findings are quite insightful. You can also watch a great discussion about virtual engagement and ROI I completed with Steve Gogolak @sgogolak with Cramer @cramermarketing.  Dennis Shiao @dshiao with INXPO @INXPO also wrote about the topic. 



Did The Impact of Your Meeting or Event Last?

Downloadpart1 The other day we introduced the case study from our fictionally named, but very real company, Allsante. The study proved that there was a positive ROI for their event targeting independent insurance brokers.

In my last post, we discussed the importance of planning carefully if you plan to measure to ROI. This planning will determine when data should be collected and how.

High Scores Immediately After the Event

Most meetings and events have an initial uptick on the “engagement” meter.  The participants, fresh from connecting with new people and being exposed to new ideas, are in a great frame of mind.  In fact it is pretty rare when a professionally planned meeting has low scores on traditional satisfaction surveys.  

The insight gainedfrom these immediate post-event surveys is good for guiding improvement.  The findings help you plan logistics better, update your speaker list, identify new and different content for future meetings and events, etc.

What this information doesn't tell you is whether all the information, brand-building, engagement events, networking, etc., had any lasting impact.  If all your effort and work only lasts until the survey is turned into the hospitality desk – it’s probably a pretty marginal investment.

When measuring business impact and ROI, carefully determine when and how to collect the necessary data to determine the results over time.

Measure the Half-life Of the Meeting

Like radioactive elements their initial burst of radioactivity is powerful and strong – and then over time it becomes less and less powerful.  Your meetings and events are similar.  The initial impact is strong but it will decay in importance over time.  It’s natural and to be expected.  However, if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck you need to understand the rate of “decay.”  

Three months from now, how well was key content retained?  Have your attendees done anything different because of your investment?  Understanding the return on your event requires that you find out to what degree you’ve been able to influence behavior – behavior that will ultimately lead to results.

Our case study included a 3-month pulse check on the Allsante event.  The results from this questionaire showed that we did have some decrease in some of the key factors we were measuring. Not to worry, though, because once armed with the evidence we were able to determine what gaps existed and how we could fill them.  As a result, we were able to extend the half-life of the meeting’s impact!

Do you measure the “decay” of your meeting?  The effort required to follow up with attendees and check the half-life of your message is minimal and key to understanding how to sustain the impact on behavior and mindshare.

Next… the ROI question!

And don't forget if more info on this topic check out our ROI of Engagement Summit at the upcoming Motivation Show October 12, 2010.


Can You Really Measure the ROI of Your Channel Conference Event?

Questionroi That’s the question our client asked.  

They were cutting budgets across the board and the VP of sales said “no, I’m not cutting my meetings.” Most of you who conduct meetings and conferences, whether for internal employees or for your channel, have been in the same situation..  The bottom line is you need to know whether your expense is justified.  

Rest assured – you can measure ROI and you can prove that your efforts pay off.  

The following is a brief introduction to a case study prepared by the ROI of Engagement team and validated by Allan Schweyer, Chairman and Head of Research for the Enterprise Engagement Alliance.  More posts will follow as we focus on specific areas of the results of our study, but to give you some background…

An Alias but A Real Event With Real Results in the Real World

In 2009 the ROI of Engagement team took on the challenge of PROVING there was a measurable ROI associated with a conference for independent insurance brokers.  In order to protect certain proprietary information we referred to the client as “Allsante” – a made up name (but the results are not!)  The goals of their conference were: 

  • Increase reseller engagement
  • Increase trust
  • Drive loyalty and better relationships
  • Increase awareness and product knowledge
  • Update and enhance training and selling skills

I’m guessing most of your meetings have similar themes.  However, the most important objective and the one we typically have the most trouble measuring was:


Change behavior among resellers so that they would increase Allsante presentations, increase quotations, highlight Allsante product advantages over others, and ultimately increase sales of Allsante small business and ancillary products.

That’s the tough one.

Three Phases

The ROI of Engagement team conducted a three-phase analysis of the event.  

  • Phase I – Reaction, satisfaction and planned action (how did attendees think and feel about the meeting, was it worth their time and did they plan on taking action.)
  • Phase II – Application and implementation or behavior change (did attendees do anything with the takeaways?)
  • Phase III – Business impact and return on investment (did more get sold and what was the payback related to expenses?)

Most companies have no problem measuring satisfaction. In fact, most events include a smiley face survey that asks how attendees liked the meeting/conference, if there were enough breaks, was the coffee good, or were the speakers interesting.  But that’s not enough.  We asked about critical engagement factors including trust, skill building, confidence and relationships.

The Key Element of Measuring Event/Conference ROI

Bulletproofsmall A key element in measurement is “what happens next.”  In other words you need to begin with the end in mind and plan on doing your analysis over time.  

You can’t just consider the smiley faces you receive immediately following an event.  Let’s face it, most event satisfaction surveys are pretty positive.  Attendees are on a post-event high; they’ve partied with other professionals, made new contacts, learned some interesting things and, in general, had a few days away from the grind.  

A big gap in typical traditional surveys is they don’t tell you whether anything really changed with attendees. That has to be measured after time has elapsed after the event.  

Before we get into the results of our Allstante case study in future posts internalize that key point.

In order to credibly measure ROI you need to look at business impact over time.

The event objectives and data collection methods need to be thought through before implementation.  Without planning you can’t connect the dots from satisfaction to behavior change to ROI.  It’ s a bit more work – and something most planners and executives don’t want to consider when they’re involved in the seemingly endless number of logistical issues – but it is critical to developing a the business case for your event.

Stay tuned for more.  Or better yet - subscribe and be notified when we post the next installment.  We will also have the case study for you to download in future installments.

And if you really want to dig into this topic check out our ROI of Engagement Summit at the upcoming Motivation Show October 12, 2010.


Face-to-Face vs. Virtual Meetings; Come Together, Right Now.

Panel_112Hx221W.The Virtual Edge Summit I attended this week was amazing. I was genuinely impressed with the high caliber, entrepreneurial, visionary group of people that I met. For example, after presenting about how to measure results including ROI of virtual events, the conversations that ensued were challenging and relevant. Many seemed ready to develop ways to add value to an industry that still has a hard time proving the value and ROI of virtual meetings and events. It was energizing and just plain fun. 

The content from all the presenters was also high caliber. I don’t normally do this after attending conferences but I am planning on viewing the sessions I couldn’t attend. You’ll find them in about ten days at 

Many of the sessions were eye opening. I saw beautiful 3D environments, the ability to translate chats so you can speak with people around the globe without language barriers, fun and challenging games, team building activities, powerful reporting tools and more. The possibilities are enough to make your head spin. I found it easy to dream about future events complete with all kinds techno bells, whistles. 


And then, all of a sudden, my visions of a technologically enhanced virtual future crashed. I thought, “Hey, we have work to do, and a lot of it!” Around the globe companies are trying to recover from the 2009 recession and their people are the just the ones to do it. And quite frankly, they don’t give a hoot about technological marvels if you can’t help them achieve greater success.

Then my thoughts drifted to last week. I traveled to and served on a panel at the NBTA Masters Program I was with 200 of the most influential travel industry executives and it was all about travel. (Read my post about The Masters here and here) And this week at Virtual Edge Summit it was a similar kind of group and it was all about virtual meetings and events.

So, what is the best solution to engage the people you rely on to succeed? Travel? Or virtual? I’ve come to believe that the answer is both. 

You see, it’s not about ballrooms and airline seats. It’s not about whizz-bang technology platforms for a virtual event. It’s about the people. It’s about engaging people and vision casting and influencing how your people think about your product/service and building relationships and collaborating and innovating and building new skills and more. You get the picture.

And in my opinion, the best place to begin a meaningful dialog between the travel people and the virtual people is with “hybrid” experiences; meetings, conferences, trade shows, expos, exhibitions, summits, events of all kinds that include in person as well as remote audiences. By working together, these two seemingly diametrically opposed industries will extend the reach for their clients, drive better ROI and, in so doing, capture more business. Together. 

So call me crazy, but I think the two conferences should meet concurrently. What about you?


Embracing Engagement in a Virtual World

VESAudience20100222 At the NBTA Masters Program held in Washington D.C. last week, some concern was voiced over the impact of virtual meeting and event solutions on the travel industry. I can understand. The travel industry has been hit about as hard as any over the last 18 months. In fact, the thorn is still in the lion’s paw. (Check out my views in the February 18 post.)

Is the concern warranted? According to Joel Secundy, U.S. Department of Commerce, travel and tourism is a $1.3 trillion contributor to the economy, employing 8.2 million.

Let’s try and figure out this virtual experience stuff.

According to Malcolm Lotzof, CEO, InXpo, Inc. there is a natural progression of virtual event savvy. First there are webinars, then virtual events, and eventually, through effective use of portals and repeated usage, community development. Some interesting statistics shared were that 27% of companies are using virtual experience solutions and another 15% are exploring their use.

So are we all eventually just gonna ditch meetings and go completely virtual?

Kathy Sulgit, Director of Corporate events, Cisco Systems, Inc. shared quite a bit of insight. Interestingly enough, no physical conferences have been replaced by virtual events and nearly half of her conferences include a virtual component. In fact, when virtual options are added to physical events, attendance is not cannibalized!

So while the travel industry lion still groans from the pain inflicted by the thorn of the 2009 recession, I have a crazy thought… maybe its virtual technologies that can be just the thing necessary to remove it.

Isn’t that an interesting scenario?  Virtual and physical meeting and event providers working side-by-side. And wouldn’t it be great if the focus wasn’t on the means, but the end.  Engagement of audiences.

VESSign20100222This week I am at the Virtual Edge Summit held in February 22-23 Santa Clara, California put on by the Virtual Edge Institute.

This is one of these “hybrid” events. You can attend physically OR virtually. The attendee can decide. And the really cool part of our involvement is that we’re measuring the results of the summit. And when we do, we will compare results for both types of attendees. I am looking forward to what we will learn. We’ll be sure to publish our findings at


Fear Virtual Meetings, Events and Experiences? Travel Industry Execs Ponder the Trend

This week I was invited to serve on a panel on ROI at the NBTA Masters Program. The Masters is a very prestigious forum for corporate travel executives and major travel suppliers. Participation is limited to 100 each and they represent quite an impressive group of leaders.

MastersProgramNBTA Day One was high impact. Charles Petruccelli, President, Global Travel Services, American Express Company, presented an opening session entitled Getting Back in the Game. The message is poignant. The travel industry has experienced the sharpest decline in recent history over the past 18 months. Petrucelli believes that travel will play a key role in the recovery of the global economy. I agree.

Edward Walter, President and CEO, Host Hotels & Resorts, provided a very candid review of the past 18 months and an outlook for 2010. In short, the last 18 months was as bad as you may have thought for hotels, maybe worse. The industry was in a freefall and only recently hit the bottom. Prospects for 2010 are encouraging but it will most likely be 2011, 2012 and perhaps even 2013 before you can expect robust growth and health in that sector. 

Petrucelli referenced indiscriminate cuts that were made in travel budgets. In many cases, businesses were driven to virtual meeting and event solutions, because they had to. And that’s where it got interesting.

An hour was devoted to a panel discussion on virtual experiences versus face-to-face or physical meetings. There was a lot of curiosity and I could sense confusion and skepticism.

I think I understand. Following Walter’s overview of the dismal hotel outlook, the topic of virtual meetings came up in Q&A. He stated “they scare the death out of me. But I better figure them out.”

It’s interesting, next week there is a summit devoted to the use of virtual experiences. Check it out here

It’s a physical, face-to-face event.

More in my next post on figuring out virtual experiences.