Incentive Travel for Maximum Motivation

Events, Performance

Companies have used travel incentives to motivate salespeople and others for many decades, because they work. The results of repeated experiments and field research have reconfirmed their effectiveness in comparison with other rewards, including cash, merchandise and vouchers.

The latest quarterly bulletin from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) includes a summary of an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science (Vol. 15 Issue 3) by Scott Jeffrey, entitled “The Motivational Power of Incentive Travel: The Participant’s Perspective”.  

Vroom’s expectancy theory assumes that behaviour results from conscious choices among alternatives whose purpose it is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain.  Vroom realised that an employee’s performance is based on individual factors such as personality, skills, knowledge, experience and abilities.  In the context of travel incentives, the IRF’s interpretation is that “rewards are motivating when those pursuing them a) believe they can earn them (i.e., clear and challenging but fair goals/quotas); b) they have “valence” (participants are attracted to the reward), and c) when participants trust the organisation to fulfil its promise and deliver the reward.”

The IRF’s summary of the article goes on to say that “Incentive travel, perhaps more than any other reward, offers valence.  In other words, it is very attractive, so people want to earn it, especially when it is designed in a way that makes it difficult for an individual to duplicate on their own. Travel is memorable and social (people talk about it before and after), so it strengthens relationships between the giver, receiver, and between the participants themselves. Unlike cash, travel does not lose its impact quickly. Reward earners tend to remember it longer and more fondly, and because they talk about it more and share the experience with others, they feel more gratitude afterward, which triggers and sustains their psychological need to work harder for a longer period of time post-reward.”

Though past research has shown travel to be a better motivator for salespeople than cash or other forms of reward, this was the first study to look at the components of incentive travel to better understand which elements make it work.

  • More than three-quarters of participants reported being motivated or highly motivated by incentive travel rewards. This was higher among salespeople and, naturally, among those who earned a place on an incentive travel programme.
  • Non-earners weren’t discouraged. More than two-thirds said they would try harder or alot harder to earn the trip next time, and fewer than one in ten felt resentment toward their employers or peers. Failure to earn the travel reward did not result in lower engagement.
  • Almost nine in ten reward earners felt appreciated by the business. Three-quarters gained a  greater sense of belonging, and more than two-thirds felt increased loyalty to and trust in their employers.
  • The recognition that comes with earning a travel reward is, by a fair margin, the most motivating aspect of the reward. Spending time with executives is the least motivating.
  • Recipients want more free time and leisure options during reward travel.

We have witnessed the impact on our client’s businesses of travel incentives on many occasions, especially in terms of gratitude for the experience and appreciation of the client company’s commitment to its top performers.  Travel awards are the most prestigious form of personal recognition and are particularly relevant in highly competitive markets.  They are the brightest light in a spectrum of reward options and are most effective in motivating the highest achievers.

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