Today’s Incentives, Tomorrow’s Leaders

Today’s Incentives, Tomorrow’s Leaders


The stats are in, and they currently paint a picture that is both challenging and worrying: Companies and organisations are facing a lack of skills and numbers when dealing with succession plans.

Simply put, the talent pool of today’s workforce can’t make up the numbers and skill-sets needed for an organisation to move into the next phases of its evolution.

Baby-boomers are aging, and those who have surpassed the retirement age are leaving the workforce to enjoy some well-deserved time off.

The next generation (Gen-Xer’s) don’t have the numbers to make up for the loss of experienced talent, and younger millennials don’t have the experience (or, rather, haven’t built up the skillset) needed to effectively fill leadership positions.

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To sum up, companies will soon be carrying the liability of not having enough leaders to take the enterprise into the future. But… the implementation of effective and well-designed incentive programmes may help to mitigate the impending void.

The role incentives can play in avoiding a dearth of leadership is manifold, but 3 crucial elements will be discussed here:

  • Talent Retention
  • Skills Development
  • Leadership Development Conventions / Leadership Travel Incentives

Talent Retention

As most managers know, human capital is critical to the success of any organisation: talented individuals are centres of innovation, efficiency, output and, importantly, opportunity identification. It is these individuals who are not only valued for their excellence, but could become leaders as the opportunity arises.

In many ways, these are the workers who a manager would not like to see poached by a competitor or another industry.

Sought after incentives will keep rewarding these top performers and make them more reluctant to be poached as they have developed loyalty, a good reputation in terms of their peers and managers, and rewards for their performance.

The cost of replacing a top performer is also notable, which just adds to the rationale to implement incentives that will go some way to retain him or her.

Skills Development

There seems to be a general misconception that incentives are only there to reward job and sales performance.

The true role of an incentive is to encourage a behaviour that has been identified as being important to organisational success. If skills development is identified as beneficial (as it should be in the vast majority of cases), an incentive scheme can be put in place to reward up-skilling.

Points or rewards may thus be earned by further education, learning more about the business as a whole or completing a learning programme developed by the company itself.

Up-skilling is paramount in developing future leaders, and to incentivise the learning of junior and mid-level employees can have powerful benefits for the enterprise in coming years.

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Leadership Conferences / Leadership Travel Incentives

Travel incentives may fall into one of two different categories: The first being a leisure oriented trip to an exciting and memorable destination (this type of travel incentive is extremely popular amongst employees and has been proven to produce excellent results); the second type of travel incentive is more aligned with career development as the trip is, in effect, a conference that allows top performers to interact, exchange ideas, gain recognition for their performance and develop future leaders.

In terms of leadership development, it is the second type of travel incentive that comes into focus.

At this type of event, activities may centre on the development of leadership skills and qualities, and top-level managers and executives are afforded the chance to tutor and mentor those identified as up-and-coming, thus addressing the possibility of a lack of future leadership.

As leadership development cannot take place overnight, the concluding argument of this article is that long term incentives should be put in place as soon as is possible for companies looking to evolve, successfully, with market trends and demands.

In short, today’s incentives can be designed to ensure that an enterprise moves into the future fully-equipped with a capable succession plan.

David Sand
David Sand – CEO and founder of UWIN IWIN (Pty) Ltd -1994, with offices in South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, India and Brazil. 2013 Global President of Site Global, the professional association for leaders in the motivational events and incentive industry. Regarded as a pioneer in the field on online incentive point banking and online loyalty, recognition and reward fulfilment. David is also the founder of the Youth Employment Index a non-profit company that addresses youth employment issues in Africa.