Paul Hebert was interviewed by a staff member at the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence about the difference between incentives and recognition, but also about the performance behaviors you need to analyze before applying them. He dials in on the importance of discovering “the why” that supports those tactics. Knowing this will be different for every organization and taking the time to understand what drives desired behaviors will guide the strategies and tactics required to thrive. Read on for the interview.

The Difference Between Recognition and Incentives

To get a sense of the way Paul Hebert perceives recognition and incentive, you’d have to take him bowling.

“I like to use this analogy,” he begins. “Recognition is like the gutters in the bowling alley. If you keep the ball between those two sides – you’ll score points.” In other words, recognition represents fixed and constant parts of your organization. “Recognition should attack those things you hope never change – behaviors, values and attitudes like honesty, ethics, mission and  value.” As long as you stay between the gutters of these things, recognition is a powerful tool.

Incentive, on the other hand, is represented by the arrows on the floor of that bowling alley. You use the arrows to guide your direction. In other words, “you apply specific interventions to desired outcomes.”

What Behaviors Drive Performance?

But determining whether your organization needs recognition or incentive is a tactical discussion, expresses Hebert. Before you get to tactics, you want to ask a key question.

“What drives performance in your organization.”

He explains that it often seems that organizations are looking for that “silver bullet” to drive engagement or retention – but there really isn’t a simple formula to follow. Every organization and culture requires its own set of strategies and tactics to drive behaviors, performance and results.

He suggests looking within your culture to determine those behaviors, performances and results. “Take the top five people in your company – and find out what they’re doing differently. Those are the behaviors that should stay.” He also suggests that there are behaviors that should be excised. “What are people who are under performing doing differently? Analyze those behaviors.”

The goal is for companies to understand that it’s not as simple as putting a recognition or incentive program into place.“ Human beings are the most variable resource a company has,” he says, reinforcing his point. “You can’t do Six Sigma. If somebody says “Maslow” again, my head is going to explode.” Understand your culture then apply the strategies and tactics that make a difference.

One of the key things that companies learn from customizing initiatives to meet the culture is that it’s not simply about rewarding the top 5% of sales performers. Until people focus on the “why” of incentive and recognition “you’re going to get confused clients and bad programs.”

SITE Global


Do you know what drives performance at your organization?