Traditionally, incentive trips were exclusively for salespeople and executives. They would go to an exotic locale, get a little bit of sun and celebrate their big wins. Incentive trips were considered by the lucky few as a reward for leading the company to success.

But for the rest of the company, incentive trips drew mixed feelings. Sure, salespeople bring in revenue, but sales wouldn’t be successful without the hard-working teams backing them up. From troubleshooting proof of concept to building new features and ensuring top talent gets hired, a company succeeds or fails on the strength of the entire company. So, what would it take to create a companywide incentive?

Start with Values

At Alation, once we decided that incentive trips should be inclusive, we needed a starting point. We decided to start with our company values. To open up the incentive trip to the rest of the company, we extended the model of our annual Value Awards, which are based on nominating their peers for exemplifying one of our company’s values. Nominations are open for a month and the results go to the executive team for final selections. Think of it as a People’s Choice Awards for their fellow employees.

Finish with Feedback

We are a data company, so tracking feedback and ROI on the first companywide incentive event was critical. Since we were trying to build connections, we asked a couple of key questions around this objective.

  1. Did you get to connect with a co-worker you didn’t know very well before? I am happy to report that 100 percent responded “Yes.”
  2. If you “talked shop,” did you learn anything new about their role or day-to-day? If so, what? The responses included: “Confirmed the challenge engineering is facing with…”, “Process of lead generation, sales process, pilot, sales engineering, etc.”, “Mostly just catching up and getting to know each other outside of work.” Most of the sales team is remote.

Most of the other responses were around people actively trying not to talk about work and just getting to know each other on a personal level.

Nailed it! Since the ultimate goal was to break down silos and bringing the team together, the more open incentive trip approach seemed to be doing the job. The best part was that regardless of who I spoke with at the office the following week, everyone was talking about the trip. They were “raving” about it and we’re sure to have even more nominations this year.

Lessons Learned

The goal of an incentive trip should be to thank the people who go above and beyond for the company regardless of function and recognize hard work no matter what department that hard work is coming from. Satyen Sangani, our CEO, was early to champion a companywide incentive trip. As he put it: “I love that the company has gotten to a scale where we’re able to recognize some of the great people that turn their lives upside down to build the company for the long term. Great people achieve no matter where they are, but great teams build incredible outcomes.”

David Stevens is director of global events at Alation, an enterprise data catalog company based in Redwood City, California. He has been in events, meetings, and incentives since 2002.