A Menu of Incentives Boost morale and generate revenue with trips that reward different values, temperaments, and tastes

The incentive travel programs of the past that brought hundreds of people to the beaches of Waikiki to sip pina coladas and brag about their accomplishments have lost their appeal for today's employees. Managers must now motivate a widely divergent workforce that encompasses middle management casualties of the 1990s as well as much younger workers who have an intense knowledge of and fascination for electronics we only dreamed about 10 years ago.

So exactly how do we reach the sales guru with a voracious competitive appetite, the IT chief whose every breath involves a new software application, and the administrative assistant who thrives on comfort and stability? The answer is simple: We stop looking at what people do and start looking at who people are.

Incentive Travel a la Carte One telecommunications company determined that the best way to build cohesion and inspire success was to level the playing field. Executives elected to eliminate the standard three-tier incentive program based on quotas and replace it with an "incentive travel menu" that took into account employee demographics. Since the program measured overall company performance rather than focusing solely on sales, administrators could also take part.

This overall-performance approach proved to be the ultimate teambuilding tool: Employees understood that if the company reached its targeted revenue goals over a twelve-month period, each one of them would be able to choose from three incentive travel programs. Management learned quickly that the creative use of travel options as an incentive, if directly applied to the company's demographics and interest base, increased morale, enthusiasm, and, ultimately, revenue generation.

Something for Everyone The first travel incentive, designed for employees with families, offered a trip to Orlando for two adults and two children, with discounts available to additional family members. Each family could choose to travel independently or to meet up in Orlando with other families from the company. Though the company kept a high profile through amenities, gifts, and logo merchandise, participants were not required to attend company-sponsored functions during the trip.

A second incentive option, designed to appeal to those who enjoy a physical challenge, gave adventurers the chance to try white-water rafting on the Colorado River. Sharing personal anecdotes around the evening campfire, they shed the traditional roles of manager and employee, superior and subordinate, and enjoyed the camaraderie of the moment.

For those whose children were too old for Orlando and whose tastes didn't run to running rapids, the company offered a third incentive at a health spa. The package included a suite with two daily spa treatments, golf or tennis, and creative gifts that surprised the guests each evening. Guests could also get a nutritional review or an advanced recreational program with equestrian activities or deep-sea fishing.

Favorable Returns The returns were favorable. First, recipients considered the incentive a true perk, since they were not only give a choice of experiences, they were allowed to take their trip outside the standard company vacation time. Second, each recipient experienced the benefits of the company's collective successes, and they came back refreshed and excited. In fact, the buzz around the company when employees returned to the office created the perfect environment for managers to announce the next year's incentives and raise the bar for increased revenues and profits.