Faced with historic pandemic-related labor shortages, businesses worldwide are scrambling to attract and retain employees. Though many have increased wages to incentivize their workforce, soaring inflation has nullified the dollar’s power to engage workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, even though workers technically earned more in May 2022, their real wages declined 0.6% compared to April and 3% over the past 12 months.
Financial compensation isn’t the only tool employers have to hang on to their best, brightest and most dedicated. Strong company values and culture, more flexibility, and clear advancement opportunities are all part of that employee-retention equation. Benefits are too. But what kind of benefits can best incentivize an employee’s loyalty?
Healthcare benefits, especially in the United States, are often non-negotiable. Vacation time, 401(k) plans and life insurance (or some variation of all three) are table stakes in most benefit packages. Perks made famous by companies like Google — think free meals, nap pods and subsidized massages —have helped the tech giant earn one of the highest retention rates compared to similarly-sized companies but are designed to keep employees in the office. With employees still working remotely or in a hybrid capacity, you need to introduce unique benefits that can be enjoyed from anywhere — ones that make a difference to your workers’ lives beyond the 9-5.
Travel-as-a-benefit has immense value and the power to motivate
COVID-19 upended everyone’s lives in innumerable ways. On the work front, it increased employee burnout, and stress has driven millions of workers to reconsider what’s important to them personally and professionally. It’s also redefined the idea that work must be tied to a physical location. The result? Employees started quitting in higher numbers for opportunities that better aligned with their values and gave them the desired work-life balance.
Employers play an essential role in establishing a good work-life balance for their workers while they are on the clock and during their downtime. But these days, it can be difficult to disconnect from work properly. That’s why it’s more important than ever that workers take full advantage of their paid time off. You can do more than grant vacation days — you can help make a vacation a truly restful and rejuvenating experience for your employees by introducing travel rewards and benefits that help them see and do more.
Creating a travel benefits program for your workforce
But how can a company in an industry unrelated to travel like banking or insurance offer travel benefits to its employees? And how would those benefits be more valuable than discounts available through a typical online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia? It’s not as difficult as you might expect, and it starts by thinking of your employees the way travel providers see them – as a discrete group distinguishable from the general public, like a club.
In a way, that’s precisely what you’re creating: a travel club comprised exclusively of your employees. By partnering with a specialized rewards provider, you can set up a dedicated booking platform giving the members of their travel club (i.e., enrolled employees) access to exclusive discounts on everything from flights and cruises to lodging and vacation packages. Travel providers will offer special deals and rates that aren’t available through OTAs or to the public to your club, thereby creating unique value that employees associate directly with their employer.
More than a marketplace, however, a travel club powered by a rewards platform also gives an employer a tangible way to recognize their employees’ efforts. For example, an enterprise technology company could decide to provide each employee credits that can be exchanged for travel within the rewards platform on top of their annual bonus. Or they could ‘gift’ workers points to celebrate milestone employment events such as outstanding performance or volunteering efforts.
You can also provide fully funded certificates for travel items such as staycations, flight vouchers for travel or discounts on car rentals, cruises or even dream getaway packages. Over time these credits form a valuable part of an employee’s compensation package. Employers have a lot of flexibility in using this kind of unique benefit to incentivize and engage their workforce based on their goals and the labor situation.
The ABCs of employer-powered travel rewards
Like other types of benefits, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing an employer-powered travel rewards program. In our recent case study, we examine some cost-effective ways that companies can do this, including:
- A small annual subscription fee for enrolled employees that is taken directly from their pay is similar to how health benefits are deducted. You could even choose to introduce tiers and base your subscription model on whether employees want access to higher discounts.
- Credits that employees earn credits every time they purchase through the travel club. For example, you can set your annual subscription fee at 100 credits and award ten credits every time an employee books a flight and five credits for every hotel stay booked.
- Credits for new-hire referrals or goals the employer sets once a big project is completed.
With many workers now able to pick and choose where and when they will work, today’s war for talent is truly global. A company that creates policies and introduces benefits that put work-life balance front and the center becomes an employer of choice for the best and the brightest.
A travel rewards program is a tangible and very effective way to deliver improved quality of life to your workforce, ensuring that your employee retention strategy is a winning one.