US Policy Changes Vol.56 (Employment Vol.6 – incentive travel)

Here is an academic paper: The Motivational Power of Incentive Travel: The Participant’s Perspective (PDF; 2014) | Scott A. Jeffrey (@monmouthu) @IBAMConference. Excerpt is on our own. 

Abstract
…travel is highly motivating to employees and creates positive feelings towards the company by recipients of the incentive… there are limited negative feelings towards the company expressed by non-recipients…

Introduction
… The incentive travel market was $13.4 Billion US in 2006 and when motivational meetings and special events are included, this number rises to $77.1B… travel is a more effective motivator than cash and merchandise but this research fails to examine the specific elements of travel that make it motivating. …this is the first article that actually asks the recipients of travel incentives what makes a travel incentive motivating. …
…both academics and practitioners need to understand if firms should continue to invest in incentive travel and how best to design and deliver this type of incentive. …
…it addresses the viewpoint of recipients of incentive travel rather than the opinions of those who provide these incentives in order to explore why travel motivates (rather than whether or not it does)…

Literature review
What Motivates Employees
…whether or not employees believed they could achieve the required level of performance to become eligible for a reward… …instrumentality, the belief that if an employee did actually perform at the requisite level, company management would actually deliver the rewards… …valence, the amount the employee valued the reward…
…specific difficult goals drive better performance provided they were accepted and committed to. …commitment was more likely to goals that were viewed as fair and clear…
…beyond being more motivating in the valence-instrumentality-expectancy framework, high valence items improve employees moods, making them choose higher goals, perform better, and maintain a more positive view of their employers…
How Does Travel Motivate
Travel incentives accomplish motivation predominantly through valence. The travel event itself is frequently a unique event which an employee would find difficult to duplicate on their own. …
…Incentive awards in general provide a signal of recognition of good performance from employees which leads to more of the same behavior in the future… Higher levels of organizational commitment then lead to better task performance as well as an increase in the incidence of organizational citizenship behaviors…
Finally, the uniqueness of travel increases motivation through three additional mechanisms: justifiability, social reinforcement, and separability…
…it is difficult for people to purchase is using their own funds, as they have difficulty clearing a “justifiability” hurdle.
… This physical reminder of the incentive reinforces the feeling of being valued by the company…
… A separate “mental account” is set up for non-cash incentives which means they tend to be viewed in isolation and therefore less susceptible to these negative effects…
Past Research on Incentive Travel
…sales people and asked for pairwise comparisons of their preferences between pay raises, promotion opportunities, fringe benefits, recognition, and incentive awards … sales people had a strong preference for pay raises over all of the other potential rewards. Incentive awards came in fourth in the list of five. …
Drawing the conclusion that travel is not as motivational as cash would be premature, as past research has shown that what employees say they want is not necessarily that for which they will exert the most effort. In a laboratory study among university staff members, a strong preference for a cash incentive was found yet the performance uplift was stronger for a non-cash tangible incentive. …
…travel is still widely used as an incentive for salespeople. If it were not effective, then companies would most likely have stopped using it a long time ago. …the additional value that comes from rewards that provide a tangible reminder of the performance that led to their receipt. …travel incentives can increase organizational commitment it can contribute to job commitment and thereby improve performance. The provision of recognition through the use of different types of incentives, particularly travel, can increase commitment through an increase in perceived organizational support. …
… To the extent that travel incentives can increase organizational commitment it can contribute to job commitment and thereby improve performance. The provision of recognition through the use of different types of incentives, particularly travel, can increase commitment through an increase in perceived organizational support.

Method

Results
Sample Description
Overall Motivational Power
Motivational Power of Elements of Incentive Travel
Attitudes of Participants
Motivational Power of Travel vs. Other Alternatives
Implementation Issues

Discussion
The most important finding reported in this article is the high levels of motivation reported by participants with respect to travel. This was true for both sales employees (the standard group of subjects) and non-sales employees, although sales people did report being more motivated. …
…people feel personal responsibility for not earning the award rather than any ill will towards the firm offering the rewards. …
…reported envy was uncorrelated with the willingness to work hard for the incentive in the future. Employees also did not seem to believe that the same people were earning the travel incentive every year. …
…the recognition aspect of travel is the most motivating element. Also motivating to employees was the ability to experience something unique, and the ability to develop closer relationships with peers. …
…the elements that employees said could make travel more motivating to them. High on the list was an increase in destination choices, but at the top of that list was an increase in leisure activities and more free time. …

Conclusion
This article reports the results of a survey conducted on 1003 workers who had been eligible to earn travel incentives. Seven hundred and fourteen qualified for the travel, while 289 respondents did not earn the travel. This article is a unique contribution to the literature on travel incentives because it explores the perspective of recipients rather than the opinions of those who design or sell incentive travel programs. In addition, this article is unique because it addresses the opinions of non-sales employees in addition to sales employees who tend to be the focus of most research in this area.
The results reported in this article show that travel incentives still deserve a place in a firm’s motivational portfolio, even though there is often a stated preference for gift cards and cash. Incentive travel motivates employees by making them feel valued and giving them the opportunity to enjoy a unique experience that they would have a hard time replicating on their own.
Finally, the provision of incentive travel increases positive feelings in those who earn the incentive towards an employee’s firm without discouraging those who don’t qualify for travel. Because these positive feelings can increase organizational commitment, this provides another positive reason to keep incentive travel in the firm’s motivational tool kit.
The findings from this article increase the knowledge of both academics and practitioners. For academics, it begins to open up the black box of motivation by examining the elements of travel that increase the valence of the incentive. For practitioners, this article provides information on how to improve the motivational power of travel through both the design and implementation of incentive programs.