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Group getaways can be appealing reward for top-performing employees
By Irmy Shaw
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/20/2014

An all-expenses paid trip or a gift? Often, employees pick travel because it gives them a break from the demands of the office, a chance to develop camaraderie with colleagues and to be recognized by senior management.

5 steps to planning a trip

Most importantly, travel is a great way to motivate employees. Here are five easy steps to plan a reward incentive trip:

Decide on the purpose: Start by determining the purpose. Generally, an incentive trip should motivate employees to achieve company goals, whether they are short- or long-term.

Ask yourself, what are your company’s most pressing needs — and how can you tailor the program to address and solve those problems? The most common business goals are increasing sales and profits, introducing new company products and services and retaining employees.

Other goals may include:

•gaining a bigger market share

•increasing productivity

•boosting morale

•building customer loyalty

•fostering collaboration and innovation

•recognition for employee performance.

Decide how to motivate employees: The best way to motivate people is to establish simple performance measurement targets. Be specific about what employees should achieve. For example, “Increase sales by X per cent in X amount of time” or “Improve customer service.”

Employees should clearly know what they have to achieve throughout the year to be considered for a reward incentive trip. Year-round, set achievable goals and targets that can be easily measured and tracked.

The temptation is to set the goal high to create buzz and excitement, but if it’s too high, there’s a risk employees may not be able to reach it. Their motivation might drop because of unrealistic goals. Conversely, if targets are too low, too many employees will qualify for the reward.

People will be motivated when they know what is being asked or expected of them. Consider a tiered reward system so everyone has something they can work towards.

Smaller gifts and prizes can be awarded to people who showed some improvement, while the highest achievers are eligible for the trip.

Don’t forget, a reward incentive trip isn’t just for employees. Depending on the budget, a company could consider including family members who have been an integral part of the employee’s success.

And if there are business meetings that are not open to guests, plan alternative activities such as golfing or spa treatments to keep the family busy.

Communicate, report regularly: Once you’ve figured out the performance measurement system, develop a communications plan to get the word out to employees. Good communication will make all the difference to the uptake of the incentive program.

Regularly report on the progress — and if it looks like employees may not be able to reach targets, consider reoccurring training.

If necessary, provide ongoing support tools and resources to help employees reach their goals — additional training, coaching, marketing and sales collateral.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution but if done right and communicated properly, you will create buzz and motivate employees.

Set the budget: The next step, often done in tandem with the first two, is setting a budget. The general rule is companies should set aside one per cent of overall sales for reward programs. But that amount could fluctuate. For example, if a company is celebrating a milestone anniversary, the budget may be unusually large.

The big costs are accommodation, entertainment, transportation, food and beverages, activities, events, room gifts and awards. But don’t forget marketing and communications, administration, training and research.

Consider outsourcing: Planning group travel is a lot of work and it requires staff to wear multiple hats. One day a person is a sales manager, the next an event planner. Switching back and forth, and learning new information, can eat up a lot of time and resources.

Incentive travel companies can help, giving your staff more time to focus on the important aspects of the business and leaving routine, time-consuming tasks — such as booking hotels, checking flight times and hotel costs — to the experts.

Travel companies can also plan customized experiences that aren’t available to the general public, and the entertainment and activities can be tailor-made to reflect a company’s particular corporate culture and organizational goals.

An incentive travel company also has buying power based on volume and can negotiate lower prices with preferred suppliers.

Outside companies can also help with on-the-ground logistics and provide 24-7 assistance outside of office hours. That way, someone outside your organization can see the big picture, steer you when you go off-course and manage those small details that make a big difference.

Irmy Shaw is manager of incentives at AMA Travel, Alberta Motor Association (AMA), the Alberta affiliate of the Canadian Automobile Association. She can be reached at (780) 430-5683, or, for more information, visit

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