Incentive Travel – A Deeper Dive

As incentive travel becomes a greater part of the meeting planner’s portfolio, we continue to work with our clients to identify what truly motivates modern workers and to understand what they consider a significant reward.

Traditionally, management believed that monetary rewards were the most obvious and powerful incentives. This belief has been completely debunked by recent studies into what motivates today’s workforce. Apparently, the relentless growth of the American middle class has changed the way workers look at themselves and their earnings.

Finding #1

Once people have earned enough money to provide for their basic needs, they are driven by a desire to raise their self-esteem — not just their earnings.

In other words, monetary rewards are no longer the only significant motivators. How people feel about themselves after they have their needs met digs a little more deeply into the 21st. century worker’s psyche. This realization has presented human resource professionals with an entirely new paradigm to decipher. How can we help our employees feel better about themselves?

Finding #2

Recent tracking by Gallup Daily shows that 32% of employees in the U.S., and only 13% of employees worldwide, are engaged (meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace).

This revelation helped planners and clients see the self-esteem issue in Finding #1 a little more clearly. Workers were not “engaged” in their work. They feel disconnected from what they are doing, who they are doing it with, and who they are doing it for. A reward for excellent job performance, therefore, that would enhance their sense of purpose, community, and worth would be both a powerful incentive and a self-enhancement tool.

Finding #3

Studies suggest that non-cash incentives, specifically travel, have more impact and lasting value.

  • A once-in-a-lifetime, high-end travel experience creates lasting memories that will be talked about and shared by participants and motivate future performance.
  • During a program, the positive reinforcement given by company executives to top performers increases the “trophy value” of the travel award and its usefulness as an incentive.
  • Each time the participant remembers a trip, he or she is reminded of the recognition, which increases their commitment to the company.

Finding #4

Modern workers no longer define REWARD as “lying about” baking in the sun on a tropical beach sipping a Mai Tai.

  • A survey of over 6,000 workers who had earned a reward for excellence revealed that the majority preferred an opportunity for self-improvement or social engagement over a luxury vacation.
  • Mark Sergio, senior vice president, global sales organization for FRHI Hotels & Resorts calls the new trend, “Experience over commodity,” adding, “Groups continue to be drawn to programming that embraces learning and unique experiences.”
  • Alison Taylor, senior vice president of the Starwood Sales Organization at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, says “Making sure that people are part of the community when they travel, and are socially responsible — that they contribute to the community — is a must-have in this market. It’s so important to have social responsibility be part of the experience,” she says. “People want to feel they’ve made a connection, actually met people, and become friends.”

It’s A Whole New Product

Designing a successful incentive program demands cooperative effort between corporate managers who identify the business objectives and skilled planners who can create a program to achieve those objectives. Before designing an incentive program, planners should ask:

  1. What is the business intent and what are the objectives?
  2. How will the program be measured?
  3. How do we encourage the best job performance?
  4. What can we do to ensure the program is meaningful, motivational, memorable, and delivers the desired business results?

We’re finding working with clients on this new product at Premier Meeting Planners both a challenge and an opportunity.

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