Modernizing Your President’s Club Award to Recognize Top Performers

boss approving congratulating young successful employee

For a long time, rewarding your top performers via a President’s Club award has been the ultimate recognition method for sales organizations. However, as the competition for top talent continues to escalate, finding more modern and unique ways for your company to motivate and reward high-performing sales leaders is more critical than ever.

But the traditional President’s Club Award is losing favor amongst recipients, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. The award is typically an all-expense-paid group vacation for all recipients to a single location, but not everyone wants to travel, can travel or desires to travel to the predetermined destination. So how are you going to recognize your top performers?

Are Employee Awards Effective?

Recognition programs work. A survey by Chron states that 79% of employees work harder when rewarded by their employer.

  • Your company can recognize its employees for different reasons, including:
  • Achievements
  • Going beyond expectations
  • Achieving milestones
  • Exhibiting traits and behavior that builds a positive work culture

Through recognition, employees will view promotions as fair, encourage extra effort, and spur their creativity. One of the best ways to recognize your high-performing employees, particularly in sales, is by having a President’s Club award.

What Is a President’s Club Award?

A President’s Club (also known variously as a Winner’s Circle or Achiever’s Club) is an annual performance goal held by companies to recognize their best-performing salespeople. Usually, the competition awards various prizes to top achievers, most commonly an all-expenses-paid vacation to an exotic destination, as recognition for their hard work and for achieving specific goals or sales quotas.

The concept of an Achiever’s Club began back in 1907 at NCR, where the company sought to reward and motivate its top reps. Today, many organizations have adopted a similar reward mechanism. For sellers, financial incentives for hitting and exceeding set targets are significant, with the President’s Club award – along with peer recognition and a special prize – providing inspiration and motivation for employees.

Related: 4 Employee Rewards Trends We Expect for 2021

With meaningful contest stakes, the award can drive positive behavior and traits among highly compensated and top-performing reps to encourage them to push above and beyond what would be their usual performance expectations.

Deloitte says, “Talent today wants a custom rewards experience that reflects how they live, work, and communicate – nott a one size fits all approach rooted in the past.”

Sales organizations need to rethink their President’s Awards if they want them to remain a valuable incentive. It’s time to modernize your program to better align with what your sales leaders really want.

Why Should Your Company Consider Reinventing Your President’s Club Award Program?

If you don’t already have a President’s Club award program, now is the time to consider rewarding your top achievers. It is a practical initiative because it focuses reps on the positives and sends them a clear message that the work they do matters. 

By rewarding successes and outstanding performances with things your employees desire, you will keep them focused and drive them to achieve their highest potential. The program encourages employees to set and hit their daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual targets.

Recognition through a Winners’ Circle award helps your company to:

  • Attract and retain top talent
  • Boost employee engagement
  • Increase individual and team performance
  • Develop a positive workplace environment
  • Encourage friendly competition

It is impossible to achieve employee satisfaction without showing your people how much you appreciate the work they do. When you recognize their wins, you send them a clear message that they matter to your company. As a result, employees feel valued, seen, heard, motivated, and inspired.

Where Your President’s Club Award May Fall Short of Employee Expectations

Unfortunately, most of the current approaches to the President’s Club award are not aligned to the modern workforce’s needs and wants. The problem is more pronounced with the COVID pandemic, which has slowed down President’s Club group travel plans almost to a complete standstill.

Before, the employee mindset was to go to work to pick up a paycheck. However, as millennials and Gen Z take over the workforce, the approach to work has shifted.

The modern employee wants a job that recognizes their individuality, offers growth opportunities, and allows them the freedom to be themselves. With this in mind, it is clear where a traditional approach to the President’s Club award loses its appeal and “inspiration factor” among today’s sales reps:

The Trip Is Not Personalized

‍Most Achiever’s Clubs reward high-performing salespeople with the same trip to Cabo or Maui every year, with a standard one-size-fits-all type of itinerary. Although the trips may sound nice on paper, they are not meaningful to the winners if they do not fit their interests. Trips become a forced vacation schedule that everyone has to follow, with little room for noteworthy attractions or side excursions.

Employees Feel Like They Are Still at Work

‍The main reason why people take vacations is to find the space and time to unplug from their jobs. However, with traditional President’s Club trips, the awardees and their +1s have to hang out with their boss, coworkers, and the company’s senior leadership – hardly the break that they deserve or expect. The trips fail to offer the kind of inspiration and afterglow they would get from crossing something off their bucket list or after a truly unplugged vacation.

The Award Can Demotivate Those Who Miss Out

Because President’s Club trips are costly, they commonly need to be planned at least one year prior and capped to a specific number of attendees. The unfortunate result is that only the same percentage of employees end up going on the trips. Therefore, the remaining large portion of reps become demotivated as they quickly realize that they do not qualify for the award only a few months into their sales period. This realization negatively impacts their performance and gives them an excuse to look for a new job to gain the recognition they crave.

Tips for an Attractive and Inspirational President’s Club Award

By now, you understand just how important it is to incentivize your sales team. However, the disadvantages of traditional President’s Club awards outlined above mean that you need new ways of thinking about how to inspire, engage, and motivate your top performers. While you can settle for monetary rewards, you can get much more creative by designing a catalog of qualifying items and experiences from which your award recipients can choose. By giving them options, they can select what’s valuable to them.

Related: Sales Incentive Programs: The Critical Components

Let’s look at the steps you should take to design a President’s Club award scheme with memorable incentives and activities that will inspire your team:

1. Qualifying for The Award

Nothing is more demotivating than having the same yearly criteria for choosing the employee of the year, rewarding the same people year after year, and setting up nearly impossible quotas for your reps to achieve.

The key to providing meaningful recognition for your employees is to set fluid criteria for getting rewards and recognition. You should base your company’s Winners’ Circle award on qualifying performance thresholds that are attainable and convenient for the entire team but remain exclusive enough to be meaningful.

Your organization will also need to find a way to master the tricky balancing act of providing enough slots in the President’s Club so that a good number of reps have a shot at making it. Be careful not to create so many positions that the scheme not only decimates your budget but also renders it relatively meaningless.

2. Award Budget

Most companies prepare a budget for the trip/award based on the expected number of participants, but there are other options.

Some companies manage the budget directly through stack-ranking, where they reserve an exact number of spots for the award. Others choose to set a performance bar for qualification, and any rep that achieves it qualifies for the award.

Some organizations even take a so-called “funding” approach, where they flex the number of attendees based on the entire sales team’s performance. For instance, if the team hits their goal, 5% of the company’s reps attend the trip, and for each 1% above target, then an additional 1% of the team may attend.

However, the most motivating and inspirational way is to have a fluid system where each salesperson starts the year with a clear idea of the performance needed to qualify. After all, the President’s Club is an award that recognizes individual excellence.

3. Measuring Employee Performance

A vital goal of the President’s Club award is to recognize meaningful achievement, so your company must provide clear guidelines on the type of good work it acknowledges.

What your organization considers a measure of high-performance on the job could be a unique achievement, extraordinary sales performance, or an innovative idea that should earn the rep recognition.

To maintain motivation among the entire team, you should base your rep’s performance on their metrics. A subjective measure of performance and success is likely to demoralize the rest of the team since the award is competitive.

You can look at other criteria, such as the minimum revenue, minimum amount of sales for a specific product (to ensure a fair balance across products), or the sales amount by region (for global distributed sales teams). Just keep in mind that the contest shouldn’t be so complicated that your sales reps do not understand it.

4. Eligibility

One of the main eligibility criteria considered to achieve a spot in the Winners’ Circle is the employee’s tenure. Most companies exclude their sales reps who’ve been on quota for nine months or less during the year. It is difficult to determine accurate ramp quotas for new sales reps, mainly if they inherited active territories.

An exciting aspect of the President’s Club award is that, in some companies, it has evolved to reward employees besides quota-carrying reps, including:

  • Head of Sales/CRO: If your organization has leaders overseeing an entire region (e.g., Latin America or EMEA), they may be part of the Winners’ Circle.
  • Sales Leads: You may include sales leaders based on their groups achieving set team targets. Sometimes, the award consists of an individual performance component in addition to their teams’ achievements.
  • Sales Engineers/Sales Ops/SDRs/BDRs: Many companies exclude these sales support functions, but giving them recognition impacts team members’ motivation since these are positions do not vary in pay regardless of performance.
  • Non-Sales Functions: Most companies with a President’s Club award sales representatives only, excluding other employees from the prize. However, some companies now have a small number of people from non-sales functions allowed to win the award. Including employees from marketing, services, product development, or customer success is a powerful motivational tool.

5. Award Deadline

There are various ways that different companies operate their President’s Club reward programs. For instance, your company could evaluate sales rep performance on a month-to-month basis and make them eligible for the plan if they hit their sales quota for three consecutive months. The length of your evaluation timeframe plays a big part in the deadline you set for the award.

Most Winners’ Circles run for one year. Although industries and organizations are different, your company should set deadlines for evaluation and provide expirations on how long a rep can stay in the club without hitting their targets.

6. Choosing Rewards

The value of rewards is highly subjective to each sales leader, so you want to choose rewards that run the gamut. From personalized luxury travel to high-end merchandise and unforgettable experiences, you can work with a rewards and recognition partner who can design a comprehensive, flexible President’s Club Award program that fits your company culture. 

The top providers offer a web-based platform that engages employees at every level, inviting them into a recognition-based culture that becomes part of their everyday work environment. At any time on any connected devices, they can access the platform to see the various rewards and requirements, track their points, and select their rewards.

Ready to Create a President’s Club Award That Inspires?

Creating a recognition program for your employees is a significant first step to keeping them inspired and motivated. However, the companies with the most engaged and satisfied employees constantly reevaluate how they reward their employees. As your business grows, you need to rethink how your President’s Club award adds value to your employees’ experience.

If you need help modernizing your employee rewards program, Xceleration provides full-service rewards, recognition, and incentives solutions to businesses worldwide via RewardStation, a proprietary web-based platform. Contact Xceleration today to create a customized President’s Club Award program with plenty of options to fit different employee tastes and preferences.

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