. The Importance of Non-Sales Incentives | Northstar Meetings Group

The Importance of Non-Sales Incentives

Incentive travel boosts non-sales employees, too

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A decade ago, the concept of a non-sales incentive travel program seemed, well, almost nonexistent. Today, however, those programs, and the inclusion of more non-sales participants, are becoming more common for a variety of organizations, all in an effort to retain, engage, and motivate employees in all sectors. And for those companies, that strategy seems to be working.

For the past seven years, Aimia has worked with a large healthcare client that wanted to recognize its exceptional call-center employees. This year, the company brought 311 winners from the U.S., India, and Ireland to Orlando, for a multiday program, including a welcome reception, awards dinner, teambuilding activities, and networking opportunities with the CEO and upper management. Post-event surveys showed that 72.4 percent of winners had increased feelings of company loyalty; 76.6 percent had increased feelings of belonging; and 67.4 percent of non-selected, non-sales employees that were also surveyed indicated a desire to improve their performance for a chance at future participation.

"Travel is a universal motivator," notes Bonnie Boisner, vice president of event management for Aimia. "A travel reward motivates across all business practice areas -- not just sales."

The idea that incentive travel, in particular, can and should be applied as a motivator for all members of an organization, and not just sales, is catching on, too.

"Rewarding only sales can generate an us-versus-them culture, instead of one where everyone's contributions are valued and recognized," says Susan Adams, senior director of engagement for Dittman Incentive Marketing. "Demonstrating appreciation for the efforts of those supporting the sales process will go a long way to ensuring that everyone is working toward the same goals and reaping the rewards of achievement."

At CWT Meetings & Events, Tony Wagner, vice president for the Americas, also notes, "Dedicating budgets to a travel reward program outside of sales departments relieves the 'non-valued' perception that many employees today have, and has a real financial impact in terms of worker engagement, efficiency, and retention."

When it comes to crafting an incentive travel program that includes non-sales winners, there aren't many differences, either, says Wagner. "Ultimately, the goal is the same: motivating, driving engagement, and driving performance." The differences have more to do with making the case for this type of travel, and how to obtain those goals. Here are five ways to do just that.

1. Make the case and set a budget
Unlike a traditional sales incentive program that's tied to sales revenues, it's much trickier to demonstrate the ROI of a non-sales incentive travel program but, says Scott Siewert, divisional vice president of sales for USMotivation, it can be done. "The ROI is harder to find for this type of program, but you can run an ROI on anything."

Aimia's Boisner agrees, adding, "Every initiative is measurable. Find out what your objective is, figure out a way to measure it, and budget accordingly," she says. Some measures of success that can be applied are client satisfaction levels, training metrics, peer recognition, purchasing behaviors, and service-level attainment."

Mike Ryan, senior vice president of client strategy for Madison Performance Group, also says it's important to try to identify potential revenue streams to create a budget that's more in line with how the organization thinks on a financial level. "Yes, the budget is important, but it's also about recognizing the potential revenue that these programs can yield for an organization," he says.


Matthew Hodge, vice president of sales for USMotivation, notes that for an inaugural non-sales incentive travel program, spending should be closely monitored. "Don't go overboard. In the second or third year, you can open up your wallet more if you're successful with the first program." He says that budgets for these types of programs may sometimes be smaller.

2. Set clear rules
Traditional sales incentive program requirements are straightforward: sell X amount, and win a trip. Non-sales incentive programs require a different set of rules, however.

"Perhaps it's more nomination based, or a product of a variety of measures like customer satisfaction or client renewals," Ryan says. "Whatever you decide, it's important for organizations to communicate exactly what's expected of [participants] and how that information will be processed. You need complete transparency."

He suggests allowing employees to get involved in the nomination process, for example, leveraging input from customers or social recognition to help senior management pick the winners.

"Doing this allows companies to learn from the experience, and figure out the desired level of performance or the type of behavior they want to reward," says Ryan.