June 2012

Incentive Planning: Delivering ROI

Every planner works from a different checklist when devising an incentive trip. Meetings Focus consulted incentive experts to find out their top planning priorities.

Our company specializes in incentive travel with an ethical twist, so all the trips contain a community development component, such as renovating an orphanage or building a classroom or medical clinic. For our trips, we ask the following questions:

  • What are the goals of the incentive travel program? Try to assign a monetary value to the improvement or reduction you have identified, such as an absolute amount of units or contracts, a share, or a simple monetary figure. Keep in mind that you may also want to include employees whose performance is not directly measurable in terms of sales or productivity, such as your Human Resources department or support staff.
  • Who is the target group for the your reward program? Is it the management team, any of the employees, top-performing sales people, or perhaps even your customers?
  • What interests your target group? Talk to your target audience about what would motivate them. By finding out what their interests and preferences are you can help get them excited and performing at a top level. This can easily be done through paper or electronic surveys or interviews.
  • What level of performance or improvements should be expected? Consider past performances over time and establish reasonable but challenging tasks for your target group. Aim for a sensible level. Make it too easy and they won’t feel they’ve earned it, make it ridiculous and they won’t try.
  • How much can you reasonably sacrifice? Decide how long you can be with your top performers out of the office, possibly with limited Internet and phone contact. Staff remaining in the office may have to cover for them, so make sure that this doesn’t become a demoralizing factor.
  • How will you measure if people hit their targets? Use a performance tracking system that is clear and measurable to track incentive program progress. Talk about how public/accessible people would be comfortable with during the qualification period. Your incentive provider should have suggestions for such a system.
  • Should it the assessment be outsourced? This is an option if the assessment process is very time consuming, so weigh up costs and decide if you want to manage the system internally or outsource the process to an agency.
  • What other factors may impact? Be aware of issues such as market conditions, organizational structure and employee morale as they may all impact on the program.
  • Will there be a tax? Be aware of any tax implications, as travel can be taxable to recipients under certain conditions. These conditions obviously change from country to country, but again, your incentives provider should have the necessary tax rules to hand.
  • Whom to choose? Make sure that your incentive travel provider understands your needs and goals and budget and that you understand their cancellation policies. If the qualification process is a long and involved one, then the likelihood for changes or even cancellations is a real one, so make sure that there is a minimum risk of losing deposits, etc, at every stage of the process.
  • What are the lessons? On completion, make sure you interview both winners and non-winners to ascertain the impact that he program had and how to improve it for next time. Most important of all, use the inspirational nature of the travel reward to encourage and enthuse your target audience. Shout about it on various media (internal communications, as well as public social media) and make sure participants know what is at stake so that they are excited to be
in the running.
  • What’s your budget? Different companies obviously have different budgets. Even if you can’t afford to whisk your top performers off to an exotic destination on a private jet, you can still develop an inspirational and motivational program for your staff. Many companies add other elements, such as meetings or team building to
their incentive trips, to justify a slightly larger spend.
  • Will you allow a spouse or children to accompany your employee? It might be worth surveying them to see what the potential participants would like. The destination, duration of the trip, nature of activities once there and budgetary issues will also factor into this decision.


Sandi DanielChristopher Hill is Managing Director of Hands Up Incentives, a travel company dedicated to helping companies make their meetings and incentives ethical and sustainable by including a meaningful hands-on community development component to each event.


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