3 Apr 2019 | by Holly Mills

The perception of rewarding employees is changing. In a recent report conducted by Expedia and the Centre for Generational Kinetics, evidence suggests that 74% of Americans prioritise experiences over products. Historically cash has been one of the most common methods for rewarding employees. However, workforces are changing, with younger generations joining the ranks. This has driven a greater demand for experience as a currency within reward, recognition and motivation for employers.

88% of millennials say that money isn’t their main motivator, but why is this changing? There is a realisation amongst many (particularly younger generations) that money is fleeting, it does not last forever. Alternatively, experiences bring something far less tangible, but lasts far longer. Studies have found that spending money on experiences creates longer lasting happiness than spending money on physical things.

Money does not create an emotional connection associated with a company. The emotional elements of experience-based rewards hold a higher value than cash. Equally, cash that is provided as a reward or incentive  is often lost to routine expenditures such as bills or upkeep. This leads to the lack of a long-lasting association with the reward, the reward program, the behaviour that earned the cash reward or the company that provided it.

When looking at group incentive travel as a reward or motivation tool we have identified four key experiences that provide value to the recipient:

  1. The once in a lifetime opportunity. Incentive travel providers such as ourselves can often deliver experiences and opportunities that are not open to the lone traveller. These once in a lifetime moments can vary. It may be as simple as the mode / class of travel or the premium hotel for some individuals that makes it once in a lifetime. Alternatively it could be the closure of an attraction, a guest speaker, an opportunity to meet or something far more unique. There are a multitude of creative ways to enhance an experience to make it once in a lifetime and add to the money can’t buy feeling.
  2. The experience is in the detail. Throughout an incentive trip, delegates are treated to amazing food, extravagant accommodation and incredible activities. However, it is often the small things that can provide the greatest impact. Examples such as ensuring a bath is run and the temperature maintained after a long day of activities. Getting the timing right is often key, such as arriving at Lake Louise after night fall so that the astounding views are a pleasant morning surprise. Leaving a small gift such as fresh local produce in the room. Luxury does not necessarily mean grand gestures, it is an action such as the unexpected appearance of an umbrella as it rains on the hottest of days that really makes the greatest impact.
  3. Socialising with business leaders. Ensuring that the leaders of a business attend an incentive trip can add the greatest value for attendees. Often just acknowledgement from senior members of an organisation can lift the morale of a team. Imagine then the impact that having a conversation or sharing an experience with a business leader can have on an individual. The attendance of business leaders at incentive trips can also aid in the humanisation of leaders, which can often be a major task in some organisations. Their presence breaks down barriers and builds empathy between ranks. Employees truly appreciate that employers are listening and taking an interest in what motivates them.
  4. Building relationships. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 employees would like to share incentive experiences with their team, perhaps because in large organisations, it can be difficult for different departments to mix and connect with each other. Incentive travel provides the opportunity for employees to create relationships and bond, which can prove invaluable in the long-term for internal communications. The relationships which are built on incentive trips can often breed positively outside of the trip as peers share experiences and trust, bonds are therefore witnessed by the wider workforce.

63% of higher performing organisations show a clear preference for non-cash awards, suggesting that rewarding employees with experiences increases productivity and engagement. Times are changing and employees are in search of rewards that increase their happiness and build them as individuals. Experiential rewards allow employees to do something they love without having to worry about the costs.

If you're interested in hearing more about incentive travel and the impact it has on motivating your employees, listen to our podcast

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Holly Mills

By Holly Mills

Beginning her career in incentive travel in 2007 Holly is an expert in delivering once in a lifetime experiences to reward and recognise groups.More articles by Holly Mills