Incentive Travel is a business and motivational tool for the post Covid-19 age
How healthy is your human capital post Covid-19? Many industries and trades have suffered from Covid-19 and bringing their people together will be a major need for corporations on the road of recovery. Initially an invention to boost sales organisations, incentive travel has been an established business tool for many years now. More recently it was not only used within sales organisations or to reward outperforming channel partners but has found its way for many other business purposes linked to motivation and engagement. From a pure sales driver initially, incentive travel worked up its way towards employee satisfaction, team building and loyalty within an organisation.
Covid-19 has taken its toll on the well-being of our business communities. Individuals have become more distant from a common purpose and in some cases working remotely has had its influence on mental and physical exhaustion of the individual. Stress of working from home with all it’s ‘negatives’ has settled in with many people. Often couples with children had to work side by side, monitoring conference calls and high energy youngsters at the same time. Others have been working in isolation for many hours. All these people need time for a break! Now that schools have re-opened, corporations should probably look at responsible motivational live activities again.
Covid-19 has left its emotional and often physical marks on many people. We may have found some extra time for ourselves and re-discovered our own neighbourhood or country. We may have saved many hours in traffic. But we also have had to cope with new stress factors such as solving ‘new’ digital matters and issues, the insecurity of being furloughed or put on part-time work whilst the bills kept coming in. Teams have had ‘Teams’ to help communicate with colleagues and partners (once they got to understand how ‘Teams’ works) but still, people of the same team were not working at the same time or really lacked the physical and eye-to-eye connection. Zoom fatigue has settled in many moons ago already. With many people in traineeship being sent back home, even more tasks were added on our own people too, creating extra pressure.
In the first six months of the pandemic, companies have primarily focussed on damage control, trying to keep a fair balance between cost and income. Many businesses have reduced manpower due to the economic downfall and so even more tension was put on their troops. Staff and budget restrictions have been necessary in many cases for business to survive and re-group. Smart corporations looked very quickly in how they could service their clients within the new and unfavourable environment. In our group we quickly realised that the road to digital services, in which we had invested heavily in the past few years, was the only way we would be able to pivot revenue creation: from live to virtual. It was also the only way that our clients (corporations, associations and institutional) would be able to convey with their communities and vice versa. This required a complete shift in organisation as well because, to go fully digital, you need different skills and mindsets than the ones we had ‘inhouse’ to produce live events. So, we created an extra burden again on the teams around the globe to quickly learn (primarily from each other) on what works and what does not for our clients. On how creating a virtual experience is so much different than creating life events. It is not about the technology used but about the neuroscience-based reflections on how to create virtual experiences. In this respect please check my June 22 article on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-neuroscience-based-tips-design-engaging-virtual-hugo-slimbrouck/).
For people in leadership this has been a difficult period too. Often, they have had to take decisions to reduce staff numbers, which left an emotional burden on their hearts. Working with remote teams also did not give them the opportunity to fully appreciate and support their teams’ efforts. Or staff members to fully express their feelings with superiors or peers. Working to plan to achieve budgets and other business KPI’s has become a real challenge for many. This has been a challenging period to motivate and inspire their squads and become motivated and inspired themselves by their teams’ input.
In the upcoming recovery period, many personal development and management tools will prove their business case. A big opportunity for all those trainers and coaches out there. Companies have been like big ships that were brought back to the safety of the harbour to sit out the storm. Now has come the time to plan to sail again and what better way to motivate organisations than by using travel and event incentives. By creating an incremental revenue, business incentives pay for themselves, so they should not present any budget issue. Now is the right time to use them!
Organisations need energy boosts. Those with a healthy company culture will have the advantage to pick up fast again. Those with cross company learning programmes will not have stopped communication and educating during Covid-19 albeit by working online and driving self-education.
Where do we go from here?
First, digital is not going away! A new destination has been put on the global map and its name is ‘Cloud’. Whatever we will do in the future in terms of business events and incentive travel will have a heavy ‘Cloud’ component to it. Pre, during and past the event. The way organisations will have to energise through business events will always be a combination of a destination (local, short haul or long haul) and online. In the way we bring together colleagues and leadership, the personal connection and team building, the appreciation and connectedness will require coming together in the real world. It is the only way that really works, and the past half year are only proof to the matter. Now is the time to build trust again by communicating in the first place, by merging valuable contributions with trust in the organisation. Why? Because it is time to boost common goals and values again with personal initiatives, drive, and competitiveness. Job satisfaction and loyalty need to be rewarded and motivated. As much as families felt the need to travel again and breath a different air, eat the local food and enjoy the visual eye candy of a destination, so much is true as well for meetings and incentive travel programmes. Engaging audiences, whichever the support, digital or physical will remain an important task for any organisation. Capturing the attention of audiences imposes the use of interactivity. Probably these audiences will be more local or regional than what we have seen before in the first phase. But smaller ‘live’ audiences will be complemented by larger ‘online’ participation which creates new opportunities once again. In a recent interview with the Swiss Convention Bureau, Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of the MCI Group stated: ‘What is certain is that post Covid-19, 10% of our professions will disappear and 100% of our jobs will be different from what they used to be’.
I have always found ‘Dépaysement’ a beautiful word in the French language; it means more than just its literal translation in English of ‘change of scenery’. We need to go away to focus, to absorb, to energise, to reward dedication and most of all, to let serendipity play its beneficial role and make us happy again. Going to inspiring places with different people who are willing to exchange their interests, their knowledge, their dreams, and abundance will create those moments of serendipity that will create the future for themselves and their organisations.
Hugo Slimbrouck, Lillois-Witterzée, September 11, 2020