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Bon Voyage: Why Travel Incentives Make Employees More Productive

Forget chocolate: Travel is good for the soul. It exposes people to fresh ideas, new places, and interesting people. And these days, people work to travel. This is especially true of Millennials, with 70 percent saying that, aside from basic living expenses, they see their jobs mainly as a means to pay for jet-setting.

And for good reason: A few days away from the office can do wonders for employees, preventing burnout and boosting productivity. Perhaps that’s why 40 percent of businesses are now rewarding their employees with travel incentives. After all, the happier employees are, the more productive (and loyal) they’ll be.

Happy employees are good for business. Capitalize on that happiness factor by offering travel incentives, and watch your average employees turn into productive powerhouses.

Why Travel Motivates Employees

You know that morale and productivity are closely tied, but keeping morale up can seem like a constant battle. Luckily, nothing boosts morale like looking forward to a vacation. In fact, Dutch researchers found that the biggest happiness boost comes during the vacation-planning phase and that anticipating a vacation made people happier for up to eight weeks.

And if an employer is footing the bill and taking care of all the arrangements? Even better! This incentive makes workers feel good about their roles with your company, leading to better productivity and higher retention.

Travel also reduces stress. Studies have shown that people feel more rested and less anxious after returning from vacation, and they reported that their overall mood was improved for weeks afterward. And when stress levels are low, employees have a reduced risk of developing mental or physical ailments in the future.

Vacations also help people discover — or rediscover — their interests and motivations for working. A U.S. Travel Association study found that people who take all of their vacation days are 6.5 percent more likely to get promoted than those who don’t. Travel increases creativity and leads to personal growth, and studies have shown that people who travel are more open to new ideas. It makes sense: Experiencing a new culture enables employees to develop new perspectives, making them better thinkers and workers.

The bottom line? When managers or executives reward employees with time away from the office, it makes employees feel like the leaders of their companies care about their well-being, and those feelings pay dividends.

How to Add Travel to Your Rewards Program

Travel should be a part of every company’s incentive program. It will make employees more productive and help retain your best workers. Plus, travel programs don’t have to be expensive — which might come as a surprise.

Here are six ways to make travel part of your incentive program:

#1 Create a travel policy.

All companies need a travel policy that outlines per diem payments to employees, preferred hotel chains where the company already has arranged discounts, the process of expense reimbursement, and a list of items that require a manager’s signature. It should also outline which employees are eligible for travel rewards and how they can earn those rewards. If you need help creating a travel policy, there are plenty of free templates that can help you craft one for your company.

#2 Design employee rewards.

A major part of your travel policy should include how employees are selected for incentive travel. It’s important that rewards are linked to employee behaviors and outcomes that are measurable. Business leaders need to not only make it clear how employees can earn the travel goal, but they also must provide employees with a way to track their progress in reaching the goal. This ensures fairness and fuels the anticipation that will keep employees excited and motivated to meet their goals.

The incentive travel program should include benefits that recognize top earners and provide networking opportunities for them. The program should also create ways for these individuals and management to collaborate on best practices and new ideas.

Throughout the year, company leaders should discuss the travel program and reinforce the company’s commitment to it. Showing that the program is important to management will entice employees to try to meet the travel incentive. The harder they work to meet their goals and receive the travel benefits, the more amazing work they’ll do for your company.

#3 Appoint a travel manager.

Most companies can’t afford to hire a full-time travel manager, but you need to designate someone to handle your travel program. Organizing travel arrangements and keeping track of employee progress can be time-consuming and challenging for someone with multiple other responsibilities. One option is to hire a virtual assistant through a freelancing website, such as Upwork, to maintain your travel incentives program at an affordable rate.

#4 Research travel options.

To keep travel costs down, management teams and the travel manager should thoroughly research all the travel options available. Look at the different flight and hotel options to determine which one offers the best rates for your company. Many airlines and hotels offer frequent flier or loyalty programs that dole out points per flight or overnight stay, which can add up quickly when you have multiple employees traveling often.

#5 Negotiate travel rates.

Hotel chains that are less expensive are usually a great option for employee travel. These hotels might not offer the luxurious amenities that more expensive chains offer, but they’re just as comfortable. Look for ones that offer cost-saving amenities, such as free breakfast, snacks, and Wi-Fi, as well as refrigerators and coffee makers in the rooms. Renegotiate corporate rates with hotel chains, and require that employees use the available amenities.

#6 Survey employees about the experience.

After each travel experience, survey employees about different aspects of the trip. Ask them about accommodations, flights, amenities, and their feelings about the overall experience. Companies should keep detailed records of these findings — who earned the reward, how has the program improved productivity, and what was the overall ROI of the initiative?

If you want to truly motivate your employees, add travel incentives to your reward program. You’ll give top employees something to work toward, setting the stage for highly productive and motivated employees. What kinds of rewards do you use to incentivize your employees and boost productivity across the company? Let me know in the comments below!


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Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities. https://www.expedia.com/

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