7 Feb 2019

Retain & Engage Employees With “Cold Hard” Incentive Travel Experiences

Last year I was invited to be a panelist at Northstar's 17th annual Incentive Magazine Industry Roundtable. Although Germany has many dynamic incentive options, we've only recently begun to really market them more deliberately as the German Convention Bureau so it was very interesting to be the only destination/CVB to be a part of this session.

I came away from that experience with some insights and the feeling that sometimes, as destinations, we might not all give the "I" in MICE the attention it fully deserves.

Maybe that's because organizational lines might separate business and leisure marketing? Maybe it's a concern that incentives are not "serious enough"? Perhaps it's because some destinations are more of a natural fit for incentives where others have to dig further?

Incentives are big business

Regardless of the reasons, one thing is sure... Incentives are big business and equal to a whopping $90 Billion USD industry annually. (2015 figures) They are also linked to the budgets and important business goals of our clients as CVBs, DMC's, planners and buyers alike.

For example, in the "merch" area alone, the Incentive Magazine 2017 Merchandise IQ Survey showed that companies with $1MUSD+ annual merchandise award budgets soared from 5.2% in 2016 to 9.3% in 2017. The key goals behind this is to "build morale/increase job satisfaction", "improve employee loyalty," and "say thank you." Most interesting perhaps was that 50% of all respondents came from small firms of 1-50 employees.

Also according to studies by the Incentive Research Foundation, 84% of US companies use non-cash incentives to reward employees and research shows that non-cash awards are seen as a vehicle for celebration by recipients (vs. just compensation) and they are reported as fun, memorable and easier to discuss socially then cash.

Incentive travel can improve employee satisfaction 

As part of this - given the current trend towards delivering more experiential meetings and introducing more engaging meeting formats - I think incentive travel can be an incredibly powerful tool in helping companies work towards their employee satisfaction goals.

With all this in mind, here are a few of the things as destinations, venues and DMC's that we might want to consider:

  • Look for ways to tie our incentive travel experience "pitch" and benefits to a story of business and employee value.
  • e.g. Encourage planners and companies to consider using incentive travel as a way to retain (and attract) talent given that the average cost to on board a new employee at $4,100 USD, unemployment at a fifty year low of around 3.9%, and most will job hop to 4 companies by the time they reach 32.

Value of incentive travel

Be ready and open to presenting the value of incentive travel to not only our planners and event managers at corporations and associations, but also to their Human Resource Managers & VPs, CEOs and CFOs if invited

  • Broaden your thinking about who incentive travel is for. It isn't just for sales people anymore. It can be for any star performer in an organization who adds to the company's success or culture regardless of their job title or seniority.
  • Incentive travel can be part of an overall company lifestyle "benefit" package along with options like bring your dog to work day, flexible work hours, and work from home options, dry cleaning services, onsite wellness programs and the like.

So if you have the chance, look at how you are currently factoring incentive travel into your marketing plans, and your planning goals and programs. Think about fresh ways you might be able to re-position it, try to build the story around the experience value and the business value, and generally, while you're thinking MICE don't forget the "I".