Incentive trips can mirror your corporate culture

A recent study conducted by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) found that the design and experience of a group incentive travel program offers a microcosm of the culture of its sponsoring organization.

The study, which focused on respondents from two separate but related groups — practitioners (those who plan and manage the incentive travel program), and participants (those who earn the incentive trip) — revealed a number of surprising conclusions that run contrary to common perceptions about meetings and incentive travel programs. Among the findings released in October:

Company culture is the biggest driver of incentive program design. The IRF has identified five signposts
that allow organizations to determine the best method of recognition, communication and meeting integration for
their incentive travel program. Based on these signposts, an organization can determine its archetype and the type of recognition, meetings and communication that will work best for its culture.

Being pampered is a plus; glad-handing with top executives…not so much. More than half of planners say combining meetings and incentive travel either maximizes their investment or helps them take advantage of having high performers in the same room as the top executives. But participants overall say that being publicly recognized isn’t as important to them as other elements like enjoying a great destination, staying at a first-rate hotel and having fun.

Exotic destinations aren’t always the best choice. Participants say that time away from the office is the least motivating aspect of an incentive trip, specifically citing “getting there and back” and “being away from family” as key drawbacks. This may indicate advantages for destinations closer to the office that can provide a first-rate experience while minimizing time and travel hassles.

It’s not always easy to find the decision-maker. Often, the sales target for hotels and DMCs is the meeting planner. But depending upon the size of the sponsoring organization, the study found there can be extensive involvement from other key players. In smaller organizations, there’s often more involvement from the CEO, CFO, COO and from incentive planning specialists. In larger organizations, planners cited working more closely with sales and marketing functions. The upshot: meeting planners are often the influencers or those who make recommendations, but sales executives are frequently the final decision-makers.

The IRF funds and promotes research to increase the understanding, effective use and resultant benefits of incentives to businesses that currently use incentives and others interested in improved performance. For full research reports and other information visit