To Meet or Not to Meet . . . The Intersection of Incentive Travel and Off-site Meetings

To Meet or Not to Meet . . . The Intersection of Incentive Travel and Off-site Meetings

October 21, 2013

Group incentive travel is the ultimate award, particularly for high performing sales teams. It has the trophy value needed to really engage high achievers, while simultaneously offering the opportunity for public recognition and access to experiences or events that would be impossible to replicate individually. The chance for networking and communicating with an elite group of top performers is not lost on corporate leaders either. What’s more, combining meetings and incentives improved the “optics” of incentive programs in some industries during the economic downturn.

It is important, however, to ask:  Is it really an incentive, if the winners are going to meetings and work-related functions throughout the program? Does it lose motivating power, if it’s all about business? The Incentive Research Foundation set out to answer these questions in their recent study, Striking the Balance: The Integration of Offsite meetings and Incentive Group Travel. The result? It depends.

The IRF found that company culture makes an important difference in the perception and efficacy of meeting during incentive programs. In their paper, they identify five corporate culture archetypes that can help to guide planners in getting the right mix of work and fun. For example, one such archetype is Ardent. Ardent employees respond emotionally to the group travel experience and find the appeal of the destination itself to be especially compelling. The paper provides useful tools to determine the culture and the appropriate blend.

Other findings included:

  • Most program participants are “receptive to attending business meetings,” BUT meetings must be worthwhile to the winner and provide new insight or opportunities to discuss challenges.  The paper rightly points out, “If a top performer has worked all year to earn a five-star trip to Hawaii, the meeting should be at least as compelling to her as spending that time with her guest doing something fun.” That’s a tall order, but with an audience of very interested and engaged employees, it should be possible.
  • The trip is the recognition. For many winners, more than any walk across the stage to shake hands with company leadership, the trip itself is the recognition.  That’s good news for organizations looking for maximum impact, as the recognition begins on being notified of the award and continues through memory and story-telling long after the return.
  • Participants report that the most motivating things about incentive travel programs are, in order: Location, food & activities, being recognized, time off, and time away with partner. Networking with other winners and with executives completed the list.  In other words, it’s important not to minimize the opportunity for fun and relaxation!

Every organization planning an incentive program must weigh the experience of the participants and the goals of the company. It is essential to consider the company culture and  — if meetings are a good fit — to take the time to develop content that has true value to winners.