Incentive travel is a big buzzword in the corporate rewards industry.

From a top employee perspective, merit-based trips may seem pretty great. They give you something big to look forward to at the end of the year at your company. You save thousands of dollars on a trip you might not want to pay for yourself. And afterward, they provide lasting memories and endless stories to share at company cocktail hours. Honestly, who doesn’t want a free vacation?

CEOs love incentive travel because it’s relatively easy to set up, requires little to no ongoing maintenance, and is easy to budget for. HR managers play along, hoping the annual president’s club trip will incentivize your company’s top performers to stick around long term.

But that’s just it. With incentive travel, you’re only rewarding the top 5% of performers. What are you doing to recognize, incentivize, and reward the other 95%?


Exclusive = Ineffective

Most companies that offer travel incentives make them entirely exclusive. This reward is reserved only for the upper echelon, and designed to inspire all those below into working harder. Unfortunately, exclusivity doesn’t work all that well when it comes to motivating people.

We can’t deny that travel incentives seem incredible, at least in the moment, for those who earn them. But the point of an employee incentive program is to boost employee engagement, retention, and productivity across the entire company. Because travel incentives exclusively target the top performing employees, they don’t deliver on any of these benefits.

Travel incentive programs don’t live up to their reputation for a few other reasons:

  • A great trip doesn’t make up for a hard year.

Research shows that, especially for more impulsive employees, smaller instant-gratification rewards work better than a larger, delayed reward. In practice, this means that without a high quality employee recognition program in place, even your top performers aren’t getting adequately rewarded throughout the year. Twelve months of grueling hours, a stressful work environment, or a less-than-appreciative corporate culture won’t be erased by a week in Fiji. If you’re seeing employee retention rates dropping off after the annual vacation, this might be the reason.

  • Most of your employees don’t expect to earn a travel reward.

The nail in the coffin for travel rewards is that the vast majority of your employees won’t earn them—and they know they won’t. Whether that’s due to inflated team-based quotas or standard dips in the market, most of your employees are savvy enough to know ahead of time that they’d have to work themselves into exhaustion to even hope of making that number. Most work hard enough already that they aren’t willing to double their output for the sake of a far-off break. Even if they are willing to attempt the herculean task, after that inevitable point in the year when their impending failure becomes certain, they give up. They stop being motivated by the travel incentive and settle for yet another year without any reward.

  • Your top employees can get travel rewards (or a salary boost) from any other company.

The vast majority of your workforce isn’t inspired to loyalty by a delayed travel incentive. They’ll just sit back and watch while a select few get a free vacation and the marketing team spams everyone else at your company with hashtags and recap videos. Nothing about this situation inspires widespread retention. But annual trips might not inspire loyalty in your top performers either. They know they can get travel rewards from plenty of other companies. They probably also know they could afford to pay for the trip out of pocket—especially if one of your competitors were willing to offer a serious pay raise.  

Travel incentives are well-known in the world of corporate employee motivation. When used infrequently, they have the potential to inspire your employees to give a big boost of concentrated energy toward company success. But most corporations set up travel programs as annual institutions—and these programs just aren’t cutting it for the vast majority of employees.

To reap true gains in retention and productivity, you should rethink travel incentives and consider investing in a very different kind of incentive program.


Inspire the Masses

To get the highest return on your employee rewards investment, you need to choose an employee incentive program that motivates everyone, from the brand new Business Development Representative (BDR) trainee to the top enterprise rep on the sales floor. You can get there by creating a culture of recognition.

Many corporations already have some sort of incentive program in place. The problem is that most incentive programs just aren’t living up to their reputation. They often struggle to get full employee participation—and after decades of helping those companies really incentivize, we’ve learned that’s likely due to one of three reasons: unreasonable goals, low-value rewards, or lack of social currency.

The most successful incentive programs are dynamic, customizable, and built on what employees value most: bragging rights. When participation is your number one goal and bragging rights are your currency of choice, you need to build an incentive program around the following key points:

Achievable Stretch Goals

Specific, measurable, and achievable—those are the kind of goals you should establish for everyone who participates in your rewards program. These goals should be specific and reasonable for each person and achievable within a fairly brief period of time. Set a waterfall of incremental stretch goals reaching into the future to keep your team motivated and winning again and again.

Customizable Rewards

What matters to call center employees versus shipping technicians can differ a lot. You need to choose an employee recognition program that allows you to customize rewards according to what your employees value and appreciate. Are they more into brag-worthy branded apparel they can rock on the job, or would they be more likely to appreciate brand-name tech gear to accessorize their cubicles? Customization is key, and static standard programs are already old news.  

Peer Recognition

With reachable goals and valuable rewards, you only need one more thing to get your employees interested: peer buy-in. Invest in a program that comes with smooth mobile and social media integration so your team can share their achievements. Create an environment where completing all levels of your program comes with elite distinction. Get your team involved in marketing the program. They’ll all be watching—and if they like what they see, they’ll all start working.

Let’s Get Started

At Inproma, we love a good free vacation—but we’re experts at creating successful incentive programs that actually improve employee engagement and get employees working hard to earn their bragging rights.  

When you work with Inproma, you get to sit back and watch retention rates, output, and morale grow while we take care of the details behind the scenes. Our programs are fully customized to your needs. We’re prepared to walk with you through the process of program creation, implementation, and maintenance, while your employees work hard to reach their goals over and over again.

Want in on the action? Let’s talk.

Inproma’s custom employee incentive programs get results. From design to fulfillment, we can handle all the behind-the-scenes requirements. If your employee benefits aren’t producing the results you need, or your current incentive program isn’t getting anywhere, let’s talk.

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