Insights Uncovered

The Great Re-incentivization

The Great Re-incentivization

Five data-backed trends to reframe the corporate incentive.
In today’s labor market, recruiting, retaining, and recognizing employees is top of mind for companies looking to keep up with modern workplace realities. After a long pause, travel incentives are seeing a major comeback — with new trends.

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) shared in its Industry Outlook that overall incentive budgets for North American companies are up 34%, with European companies increasing their overall budgets even higher to nearly 45%. 

Today, attendees are looking for something fresh. Gone are the days of Covid-era bonuses for incentive award winners and run-of-the-mill group trips. Attendees are craving exclusive, relaxing, and distinctive experiences from their company trip that makes the time away feel worth it. 

Increased levels of burnout have shifted employees’ values toward prioritizing their mental, physical, and emotional health. When it comes to incentive trips, attendees want an experience that prioritizes flexibility, connection, and an improved sense of well-being. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to incentive travel. While one group may opt for spas, pools, and massages, the next group may feel rested and recharged by adventure, new experiences with their loved ones, and immersion in local culture. The key to designing an incentive trip that is memorable, engaging, and enjoyable for all attendees is to understand and accommodate attendee preferences. 

With flexibility, connection, and well-being at the forefront of attendee priorities, we identified five data-supported trends that help reframe the corporate incentive — a movement the teams at Opus Agency call The Great Re-incentivization.

  1. Personalized Experiences
  2. Recharge and Rejuvenate
  3. Bucket List Experiences
  4. Unstructured Free Time
  5. Digital Take-Homes

Personalized Experiences

The best way to create a stellar personalized experience is to first determine what activities and gifts will resonate most with attendees. Harness the power of personalization by conducting surveys before the event to understand what would truly make their experience memorable. Then, take the results to curate options for attendees to choose their own path. 

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) conducted a study on technology company incentive programs, finding that flexibility in rewards incentivized employees more than pushing the same rewards to all employees. The data suggests that “one size does not fit all,” and “flexibility is a critical component to a successful incentives program.” 

Trending Ideas

  • Choose Your Own Adventure: Provide attendees with a menu of activities and have them build their own experience path (health guru, adrenaline junkie, wanderlust adventurer).
  • Celebrity Host or Private Concert: Have attendees vote on the entertainment.
  • Personalized Letter: Write a personalized letter to each attendee detailing company appreciation.

Recharge & Rejuvenate

Burnout rates skyrocketed to 72% only a few months into the pandemic, creating urgency for employees—especially salespeople—to prioritize their mental, emotional, and physical health. Post-pandemic, only 55% of people report having good mental health, and the need to recharge and feel genuinely rejuvenated is at an all time high.

Additionally, more people have openly expressed concerns about anxiety while interacting in large groups. When approaching an incentive trip, attendees are looking to unplug from work and everyday life. This attitude requires a newfound emphasis on comfort and emotional well-being during the incentive travel experience.

Trending Ideas: 

Bucket List Experiences 

Incentive travel helps build company loyalty and motivates employees to continuously give their best. 80% of survey respondents say that incentive travel is an excellent motivator, and 75% believed traveling would make them happier than their cell phones.

Travel experiences create a renewed state of mind for employees while allowing them to participate in unique adventures and create long-lasting memories. Attendees are looking to attend local events and participate in community activities to immerse themselves in the local culture.

When travel incentives are centered around a theme or purpose, the experience becomes much more memorable. Incentives should offer elements of both education and leisure to drive the experience as a journey. Food and beverage experiences and culturally immersive activities rank very highly among attendees, helping create those “bucket list moments.” 

Trending Ideas:

  • Wine Tasting in an Exclusive, Scenic Location
  • Farm-to-Table Culinary Experiences
  • Reducetarianism Cooking Class
  • Local Art Classes 
  • DIY Body Care Product Class
  • Local Volunteer Opportunities          

Unstructured Free Time  

Many sellers are looking for more time, space, and energy to connect with the people they love and do the things they enjoy, and top performers appreciate flexibility on their incentive trips, allowing them more time to connect with their plus-one in a meaningful way.  

Gift cards are growing in popularity, quickly becoming the most valued gift in a contactless world. IRF reports a positive trend toward employees valuing gift cards in incentive programs due to the flexibility they offer. 

Additionally, nearly two-thirds of employees have gift cards at the top of their wishlist. With that in mind, more than half of survey respondents rankedhaving the company pay all expenses to a special event” as the top incentive preference.

Trending Ideas 

  • All-Expense Paid Experiences 
  • Cash Stipend to Explore with a Plus-One
  • Certificates for Spa Services and Restaurants

Digital Take-Homes 

Gifts that take up suitcase space like swag, trophies, and plaques, are low-priority for attendees, but take-home items are still valuable to commemorate the occasion and give back to attendees. 

Digital take-homes are a more sustainable gift option and are better received among attendees, especially by younger attendees. Investing in digital gifts in place of trophies or plaques resonates more with attendees and aligns with company ESG goals. 

Trending Ideas:

  • Personalized Videos: Include messages from the C-suite or invest in celebrity cameos.
  • Disposable Cameras: Give attendees a disposable camera upon arrival (they’re having a comeback moment), and have the photos sent back digitally
  • Sign Attendees up for New Subscriptions: Consider services like Mindfulness apps, Urban farming produce boxes, Book club subscriptions, and OpenFit subscriptions.

The Big Picture

When it comes to planning incentive trips for high performers, it pays to ask them how they’d like to be rewarded. Craft memorable experiences around attendee preferences, and leave plenty of room for R&R. Immerse attendees in local culture, and opt for digital take-homes as souvenirs. Need a refresher on executing post-pandemic incentive trips? Check out our latest article on getting back to the basics to reimagine new possibilities. 

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