New Research: Incentive Travel is One Key to Long-Term Employee Motivation

April 3, 2018 Kevin Edmunds


It seems that 2018 is shaping up to be a year where we’ll see a lot of discussion about employee productivity and motivation. The reasons are twofold: First, in a good economy with low unemployment—like right now—it’s easier for employees to move on to other jobs because of the high demand for good workers. Second, academics and business professionals alike have recently released research and books on what motivates employees, and how those things can be leveraged for maximum long-term organizational benefit.

In January, veteran business author Karla Brandau released “How to Earn the Gift of Discretionary Effort,” a book based on five years of employee research and aimed at business leaders. Discretionary effort means that employees don’t simply put in enough effort to satisfy management and receive their paycheck. Instead, they choose to bring to their work all that they are capable of, not just the minimum that’s expected of them. “It takes a special kind of leader to achieve the environment of exceptional employee experience and workplace optimization where workers naturally give discretionary effort,” Brandau says. “The book teaches how to be that kind of leader: Refine the touchpoints between you and your employees and go from having potential misunderstandings to productive conversations that move projects along to successful conclusions,” even if complications arise along the way.

Then in March, a research paper was released that speaks to how sales contests can succeed or fail in making employees go the extra mile. In “Subjectivity in Tournaments: Implicit Rewards and Penalties in Subsequent Performance,” ( Harvard Assistant Professor Susanna Gallani and student Wei Cai conclude that employee perceptions of the rewards they are striving for are actually more important than the reward itself. In other words, the months-long marketing programs that companies use to push sales reps to reach the incentive-travel award are just as important as the actual incentive program—it is perceived value that moves the needle.

But there is another equally-important component: Once an employee experiences an incentive-travel program, they are driven to higher levels of motivation and productivity in the following years. The authors’ key quote: “If you feel you are being given a little more than you thought you would earn, then you tend to go above and beyond to restore the balance.”

Here at AIC Hotel Group, both the marketing of an incentive program throughout the year and the execution of the program on property are elements we can play a central role in. We have sophisticated marketing collateral, both printed and electronic, and can time up the delivery of that material to potential qualifiers for maximum impact. And of course, we work with planners months in advance to make sure the incentive program offers meals, activities and other experiences that will surprise and delight that specific incentive group.

So I invite you check out the two new reports I’ve mentioned here. I also invite you to contact me to learn more about how AIC Hotel Group can work with you to promote and execute incentive programs that bring about much more discretionary effort from employees, and better business results.


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