How Do You Know If Your Corporate Incentive Travel Program Is Working?

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Corporate incentive travel—companies rewarding their employees for performance with travel to a place they might never be able to afford on their own—is a win-win (yep, I said that) for companies and employees. The company wins with more sales, client retention, or valued employees that stay longer and employees get recognition, a deeper dive into the culture of the company (who doesn’t want to mambo with the CFO?), and a sense of accomplishment. But successful incentive travel programs require constant monitoring.

Here’s how to figure out whether your program is a hit or a miss:

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For many companies, a corporate incentive travel program has to fund itself. In other words, the cost of the program, including maintenance, coordination, internal marketing, etc. can’t be more than the revenue contributed (like a bump in sales, for example) by the program earners.

One way to make sure it doesn’t, is to keep your eye on whether the costs budgeted come in at or below the amount of revenue earned. “At or under budget” is good. “Above budget” can be bad or at least a reason to take a closer look at the program.

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When earners fail to qualify for incentive travel benefits because the bar for qualification is set too high, an incentive program can actually erode company culture, be a disincentive for employees (it’s too hard so why try?), and fail to bring in the revenue you need to cover program costs.

Making sure the number of qualifiers, as a percentage of those eligible is a “healthy” figure can help the program thrive. The percentage will vary from company to company, but start looking at percentages that represent a funded program first, then decide your level of tolerance for anything below that.

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It’s true. When you’re earners are on the beach with a margarita in hand waiting for the massage table to open up, they’re probably going to give you high marks for the incentive trip you’ve sent them on. If that isn’t the case, you’ve got a problem.

Ask trip participants to evaluate the trip from various perspectives: overall experience, education, quality of team building activities, impact of social responsibility activity, extent to which respondent will attempt to qualify in future years, destination, accommodations, etc.

Look for scores lower than average to see whether the program is a fail or you just need to buy more margaritas.

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Corporate incentive travel programs can help support an organization’s culture. But to do that, companies need to know if program participants are really engaged with the destination and other earners.

One way to do that is to use a mobile app for the trip and monitor specific data points: number of times users access onsite agenda, number of messages attendees send to each other, use of geo-location features, or number of game participants/goals reached. Lots of activity is a good sign. When you see low engagement numbers, start asking questions.

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One of the main reasons to offer corporate incentive travel is to boost employee performance in key areas that are important to the company—both tangible things (sales, profit, retention, tenure) and intangibles (volunteerism, new program development, teamwork, community impact).

To make sure that your corporate incentive travel program is working, you’ve got to put numbers–sales revenue, client retention numbers, or instances of community engagement, for instance–on your goals. Then decide whether they are high enough to justify your program.

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There are lots of ways that companies can recognize, reward, and motivate employees. For example, while younger employees may respond to incentive travel, older ones may just want cash. So, it’s important that companies continuously measure returns against investments in an incentive travel benefits program to ensure that it’s the best use of company resources.

Make a calculation, like for every dollar spent on incentive travel, the company gets X number of dollars, media mentions, carbon offsets (you decide) in return. The lower the number, the more reason to put your dollars elsewhere.

Not every company has the internal resources or the size to implement an incentive travel program. It’s expensive and requires year-round management. But if you do use incentive travel to meet company objectives–whatever they are–you need to think about the types of numbers to follow to make sure the program is working, employees are happy, and the needle is moving in whatever direction you want it to move.  

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