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How Employee Incentives Work

Employee Travel Incentive Programs

Low pay. Cramped working conditions. Unruly passengers. At first glance, flight attendant would appear to be one of the worst jobs on the planet. There's not much room for advancement; work days can stretch as long as 14 hours [source: Reiter]. And the pay is notoriously low. In fact, starting flight attendants could probably make more money as a McDonald's shift manager [source: Reiter].

Still, every year, thousands of men and women sign up to become flight attendants. What remains, however, is the allure of travel. Flight attendants may work long, difficult hours, but when they clock out, they could find themselves anywhere -- from Paris to Dubai. In the words of one flight attendant, "I just can't believe someone is paying me to be somewhere so amazing" [source: SkyWaitress].

Whether employees are serving coffee at 20,000 feet or selling car insurance, travel is a huge motivator. Breathing new air, tasting new food, seeing new places -- and who doesn't like to think of themselves as a "jet setter"? Higher wages are one thing, but if employees can be tantalized with "incentive travel," they'll be scrambling to become top performers.

For many companies, incentive travel takes the form of an annual trip that only the company's top employees are allowed to attend. It could be a week at a Caribbean resort, a cruise or a whirlwind tour of New York City -- whatever it is, companies will usually strive to make it as desirable as possible. They offer trips that their employees can't always buy themselves: style, entertainment and ample supplies of beverages.

It may sound expensive, but if done right, a travel incentive plan can end up being much cheaper than a similar-priced wage-incentive plan. A $5,000 cash bonus can easily get overlooked among an employee's pay stubs. Give an employee a $5,000 vacation, on the other hand, and he or she will return with starry eyes.

Besides, a good incentive travel program will pay for itself: Whatever money a company puts into a trip will come back to them in terms of increased employee performance. There's also benefit to having a group of top employees relaxing in the same place. They'll network, they'll build friendships, and they may even brainstorm new ideas. Who knows how many big ideas have been spawned over martinis at the hotel bar?