As any entrepreneur can attest, one of the biggest challenges of running a business is finding innovative ways to motivate employees. In my experience, offering incentive travel opportunities works perfectly. Not only does this approach to staff management satisfy people’s inherent desire to see the world, but it also gives them something tangible to work toward.
I run a business that sets up luxurious travel tours for local and international businesses. While we have been organizing incentive programs for clients for more than a decade, we only recently began instituting the concept in our own company. Having seen the positive impact it has had for our clients—increased business, office morale and employee retention, to name a few—we hoped to mimic the results. Before we launched the program though, we had to establish certain procedures.
1. Identify the objective. The first step in the development of this initiative was to identify the objective behind running an employee rewards program— increased sales, team building, higher profitability, etc. Having considered all of our business goals, we identified customer retention as the key area of focus. To jumpstart the program, we created three key tiers that encouraged employees to work hard for the benefit of themselves, and ultimately, the clients. These tiers are based on the overall cost of travel and work performance; the harder and more efficiently an employee works, the higher up they go.
2. Find the necessary funding. The second step in our incentive program was to allocate an appropriate budget for funding. Since we’re in the tourism industry, it wasn’t hard to lean on our associates to make the travel tours more attractive (and get the best deals). The fact that we get numerous free nights at hotels and cruise lines made it easier for us, and it allowed for truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences for those employees who achieved high measures of success. I quickly discovered that the more lucrative the travel opportunity, the more my employees were willing to work. And when they succeed, the business succeeds.
3. Track employee performance. The final step in the program was the development of a tracking format; one that would allow us to measure the success of key employees and track their behaviors across the board. Say everyone wanted to take a trip to Singapore, one of our top-qualifying tours. Employees would go above and beyond to take the appropriate steps toward winning this trip. As such, we needed an appropriate way of recording their efforts. I worked with my team to design a transparent tracking system that kept employees abreast of their performance and distance from the goal. Not only did this increase their motivation, it helped me maintain a proper alignment of business goals.
Throughout the implementation of this program, I learned several important lessons. Chief among them, I discovered that the travel incentive cycle has to be well planned and executed in order for it to work effectively. A badly managed trip with negative experiences will leave you with dissatisfied employees— the exact opposite of what you set out to achieve. Conversely, a well-organized trip will leave employees highly motivated and excited to qualify for the next big event. I also found that staff will have a greater emotional bond to the business if they’re afforded memorable travel experiences, which goes a long way in ensuring they’ll stay with the company.
All in all, my company’s travel incentive program has been a huge success. Not only has it improved team bonding and established a progressive work environment, but it set new benchmarks for productivity. And while I aimed to achieve increased customer retention and profitability, one of the greatest spin-off benefits has been employee retention and motivation. By offering these incentives, I not only inspire my team to achieve greatness, but I also give them the type of travel experiences they’ve always