“Staff motivation and inspiration are the new boardroom BBQ stoppers. It comes down to companies that pay lip service and those that have a plan – a lot of companies just talk about it because they don’t know what to do,” says Mercedes Trautwein, Account Director for EVT, the company that’s been at the forefront of incentive marketing since 1985.
Before this, staff motivation or engagement schemes revolved around the company dinner or annual picnic – sometimes a company t-shirt or cap. Little progress from Dickensian times, and the industrial revolution when workers were considered lucky to receive a bowl of gruel and a cup of milky tea.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Today’s employee demands: work-life balance; job satisfaction; an environmentally friendly workplace; opportunity for promotion, staff recreation and canteen to accommodate dietary and religious predilections; maternity / paternity leave; a crèche; recognition; rewards; ergonomic, designer workspaces with a view and a trip to Jamaica.
But more and more Australian companies are realising that staff are not motivated by money. The Mercer Australian Benefits Review found 55 percent of Australian companies used non-monetary rewards as incentives in 2001 increasing to 76 percent in 2004.
Today the Australian incentive industry is estimated to be worth $5 billion* and growing. With the average incentive program budget at a quarter of a million dollars, companies can’t afford not to take a strategic approach, demanding measurements, matrixes and guaranteed outcomes.
This takes finely honed marketing skills and EVT focuses on research and planning, analysing and assessing the right reward for an organisation and the individual. Mercedes’ introduction to the incentive world was as the candy-girl, throwing tubs of ice-cream to participants at an indoor circus in her teens. She has since worked her way through the travel and events, operations, marketing and reward, buying and sales departments.
“I went on my first corporate incentive trip with my mother, Virginia, who is at the forefront of the incentive industry,” Mercedes says. Virginia set the benchmark developing programs as unique as the companies for which they are designed. While a beatboxing performer in the offices of Vodafone wouldn’t seem out of place, the staff at an investment house may be less inclined to embrace a reward scheme announced in such an unconventional fashion.
“Today’s employee expects travel as part of a reward and EVT is an accredited travel agency organising anything from a fully hosted all expenses trip to Europe to designer frocks, even a sports car,” adds EVT’s Mercedes.
So far this year, EVT incentive programmes have visited Prague, Dubrovnik, Japan and the next stop is Chile.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a seven percent rise in the number of Australians travelling abroad in the 12 months to June, 2008 and while holiday travel is declining, incentive travel is increasingly contributing to this figure.
“Just as incentives motivate – poorly thought out and executed programs will have the reverse effect,” confirms Mercedes. “It is easy to annoy or patronise staff if they feel like they are being given a carrot and a stick and told to giddyup.
“We carefully consider the lifestyle and drivers of each employee and have a series of analytics to back these up. A two week tour around The Hermitage is bliss for some. Equally an exhausted frequent flying executive will be happiest with poolside family time that doesn’t involve an airport.