Motivating the next generation of incentive travel winners will require a completely fresh approach, according to a new Leadership InSITEs study from SITE Foundation. Gen Z is an independent, digitally comfortable group that will require a new set of tools to design programs that resonate authentically to promote company goals.

In an exclusive Smart Chat Live! webinar session last week, Padraic Gilligan, chief marketing officer at SITE Global and Marci Armstrong, a professor of customer engagement at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, shared key takeaways from one-on-one extensive interviews with 37 C-Suite executives across 16 industries.

Watch Smart Chat Live! Webinar On Demand.

Game On

A major eye opener about what the future holds for incentive travel— and possibly the future of meetings in general—is the emergence of a new generation of employees who require more targeted approaches to engage them.

“They’re very diverse, they’re very inclusive, and experiences are critically important to them,” Armstrong stated, “they want adventure, and they want new experiences.”

Approaches that work for these younger employees, according to Armstrong: in-office games and other digital adaptations.

On the positive side, Gen Z is incredibly work-focused and engages with social initiatives such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion when the initiative is more than lip service. If a company does not walk the walk, they are unlikely to retain these workers.

“It’s very different than any other generation. If they accept a job and then they get there and it’s not real, they leave,” Armstrong explained, “92% of them said: I won’t stay. This influences what job I take, and I won’t stay if I get there and find out it isn’t real.”

Read how SITE Classic Engaged the Next Generation.

Appealing to Gen Z’s authentic style and personality is ultimately one of the biggest factors in eliciting interest and engagement. That could translate into appealing to their own culture or ethnicity to make the experience extremely personal to them.

Gilligan highlighted Gen Z’s desire to have meaningful purposeful travel, “[They have] this need for a real authentic experience in a destination. I don’t want to be a tourist. I want to be in that destination the way a local would.”

The same goes for motivational programs. Connect it to measurable shared goals and you can earn their enthusiastic buy-in. Meaningful travel incentives are a huge factor in getting the Gen Z workers to buy into the organization’s goals, especially if they can take a picture of the view from their hotel and post on TikTok with a note about winning for being the top employee.

“They want real opportunities to share their world with everyone else with the community they work with,” Armstrong said. Gen Z activists are likely to use their social media accounts to influence others on topics they care about.

Flexible Schedules

Once a Gen Z worker has qualified for an incentive trip, they are not looking for structured group activities. “Give them options for excursions,” Armstrong suggested, “they love that individuality and opportunity to craft their own schedule, not the entire time, but part of the time.”

3 Bonus Take Aways from the Webinar

  1. Leaders are now exploring how to expand the use of incentive travel rewards beyond sales teams.
  2. The strongest incentive travel programs will be ones that keep up with the changing workplace trends driven by technology and new generations of employees.
  3. Incentive travel users will harness the networks, pathways, and relationships forged by programs to not just improve performance, but to also increase and enhance employee trust—especially as hybrid and remote working continues.