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by Rajeev Kohli | March 30, 2016

According to a recent report by Gallup, "the world has an employee engagement crisis, with serious and potentially lasting repercussions for the global economy." Recent tracking by Gallup Daily shows that 32 percent of employees in the U.S., and only 13 percent of employees worldwide, are engaged (meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace). While some companies believe that financial gain is an employee's biggest motivator, studies suggest that non-cash incentives, specifically travel, have more impact and lasting value.

Research by the SITE Foundation confirms that incentive travel works. 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. Most people feel that it is unacceptable to brag about their earnings or cash bonuses to their peers, family, and friends. Incentive travel does not have that same problem. Although spending your own money to take a trip to an exotic destination may be perceived as frivolous, it is perfectly acceptable to talk about a travel award and say how great it was to earn it. This is why incentive travel programs must be created to provide experiences that travelers would not think to do on their own, could not afford to do on their own, or would not even be able to do on their own, if it wasn't organized as a group activity.  

If a program's objective is to attract and retain employees, studies show that "qualifiers" have an increased sense of loyalty to their company, a sense of belonging that makes good employees stay where they are. People will strive that much harder to earn a trip to a destination they have always dreamed of visiting. 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. And, 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 that the participant remembers a trip, he or she is reminded of the recognition, which increases their commitment to the company.

Choosing a destination and an itinerary that will motivate the target audience is a small part of the program. 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: What is the business intent and what are the objectives? How will the program be measured? How do we encourage the best job performance? What can we do to ensure the program is meaningful, motivational, memorable, and delivers the desired business results?

Understanding the objectives of a program and how they align with an overall engagement strategy, and defining what motivates employees are keys to a program's success and improved bottom-line results. When the goals are achieved, the investment in a program can be justified.


 Rajeev Kohli is president of SITE and joint managing director of Creative Travel Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, India. Visit www.siteglobal.com.