After delegates had two full days to enjoy Banff, Alberta, Croil sent them to the Winter Olympics—their own. Sales reps enjoyed
toboggan and ski racing. And for those who couldn't ski? "They learned fast," chuckles Croil, and without any complaints.
"In fact, they had a ball," she says. After the sporting events, the group moved into huge snowbound tents with roaring bonfires
within and a spectacular Rocky Mountain backdrop. Here, the sales reps had a country-and-western barbecue, rocked to a live
band and were given a selection of cowboy memorabilia.
True to trend, this group combined two days of company sponsored play with two days of intensive meetings. "Those first two
days enabled them to relax, enjoy, forget about work, and meet their counterparts," says Croil. "When it came time for the
actual meetings, they were in the perfect frame of mind because they had spent time together in a relaxing, fun way."
Executives at many of today's leading companies are asking themselves questions about how to hold onto top performers, and
how to maximize the return on investing in methods to help keep stars motivated. And while in-house offerings like round table
lunches or training seminars are often appreciated, it's unlikely that a top performing sales reps is going to stay on board
at an organization because he got a free catered lunch in the boardroom. Today, companies need to go the extra mile to convince
superstars that they're where they want to be.
Not only is incentive travel fun—and likely to leave a favorable impression with reps— but many industry experts and incentive
planners maintain that incentive travel is actually a more effective meeting or training method than what can be done at company
headquarters or in classrooms. And besides the individual impact, bonds formed on company trips often result in enhanced cooperation
and teamwork between co-workers once everyone returns to the office.
"What we're finding is that employers want their sales people and other employees to have a good time," says Sheila Anderson-Cousins,
marketing manager of Eagle's Flight, a teambuilding company outside of Toronto. "But they also want to show return on investment."
Anderson-Cousins recalls doing a program, referred to internally at Eagle Flight as Swashbuckler, for a group of 130 sales
reps on the beach in Cozumel, Mexico. "I think they'll not only take back a feeling of 'Wow, our company values us enough
to take us to this great spot,' but they'll also walk away with great lessons in effective communication and teamwork. They'll
have a common language they'll take back to the office," she says of the memorable experience. Incentive trips, says Anderson-Cousins,
are "a real value for the employer when it comes to motivating and retaining their employees."
Jennifer Juergens, the former editor of Incentive magazine, is a freelance writer in New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Additional reporting by Judy Williams.