Our thanks to Andrew Rae for today’s guest entry, inspired by commentary he provided earlier this year at a UK-based incentives event. Andrew shares several compelling ideas for rethinking incentive travel experiences post-pandemic — if that’s indeed what we even want to refer them as, another notion Andrew explores here!
It may be pent-up desire to get back out into the real world in the company of real people, a post-pandemic hangover if you like. It may be the irrepressible driving force of Instagram as a marketing channel as well as a form of daily communication. But the facts are irrefutable: people are choosing experiences over things. And not just in their personal life, as remote working and home life blend seamlessly together; what is expected in leisure time is now being reflected very much in work life, too.
A study by Eventbrite showed that nearly 8 in 10 (77%) millennials say some of their best memories are from an event or live experience they attended or participated in. Sixty-nine percent believe attending live events and experiences makes them more connected to other people, their work, the community and the world.
It’s no surprise, then, that companies are gearing up activations and focused on engaging with their employees on a deeper level — and that much of the incentive world has had to adapt.
Similar to the way we now all operate in our own lives, alterations in the way incentives are briefed and executed have been made, for the better. Clients have listened and adapted to the new normal, and those agencies that understand and react will be the ones that are around next year and beyond.
Rethinking incentive structures
The age-old method of booking out 100 rooms at a comfortable hotel with smashing conference facilities, arranging archery in the afternoon, bookended by some creative free thinking in Conference Room B has, thankfully, ended. Struggling over a corporate buyout in July and stretching your budget to make sure the entire sales team are there together is no longer what breeds success.
Why not split your incentive over the year, allowing smaller groups, or families, to experience the same luxury, but on their own timetable? The goodwill (and subsequent employee longevity) will far outlast a weekend with people they spend more time with than their own families — and enables you to communicate your incentive over 12 months, as opposed to the two nights enjoyed previously.
Reframing motivational language
We are more commonly talking about incentives as ‘activations.’ It may seem a frivolous, linguistic adaptation but in reality, that’s what employees want — the opportunity to document, enjoy or relish a specific moment in their day. A packed agenda with no time to reflect is not what is required anymore. Opportunities to share are what takes an incentive to an experience.
Reflecting on the most memorable moments
I recently sat in on an industry roundtable and heard how ‘moments’ within your incentive have to deliver. A team of hardnosed sales reps on an incentive in Morocco were taken on a standard tour of the famous market. However, the guide explained that although they may be experienced salespeople, they would never great ones until they had learnt from the traders in the world’s toughest market, the Djemaa el Fna Square. From snake charmers to spice merchants, to be heard, noticed and achieve a transaction here is the truest test of sales skills and negotiation.
The guests watched and listened acutely, eventually explaining that this learning ‘moment’ was the most poignant part of the incentive.
To have these bespoke moments, being genuinely insightful and entirely relevant are what make a good activation great, and are swiftly becoming the benchmarks of success.
Reviewing the ROI of incentives
The plain fact of the matter is that investing in your employee experience through activations and incentives will deliver a return on investment in fostering a positive workplace and reduce turnover.
Turnover is expensive. It’s estimated that the US alone spends up to $1 trillion in turnover expenses every year. The average cost of employee turnover based on an average UK salary is around £11,000 per person. For specialist roles, costs can be significantly higher.
Thriving employees, though, are 37% more likely to want to stay at their organization. They also display 28% higher productivity. This makes the case, then, for companies to listen and weave their personality into the very fabric of their incentives so they can reap the rewards.
If there is something good to be remembered from the confines of lockdown it’s that experiences make you happy. Being able to interact with others through experiences, be they outrightly brand-infused or purely aligned with certain values, engages on a more meaningful level.
Andrew Rae is founder of Another Way Prize Management.