When we think about the word "Incentives" or the phase "Incentive Plan" most Travel Agency Owners think it really doesn't concern me. Not true! In today's hectic times, especially when it seems impossible for the small agency to compete with the larger ones when it comes to hiring the best and most qualified candidate incentives can place your company as a "pro- active" company that rewards good people based on what they can accomplish versus how long they have been in the business, etc.

Develop an Incentive Program for your employees. All employees should be given the opportunity to get involved. The most common Incentives are based on an employee's "Productivity". Many companies also add the additional Incentive based on "Profitability". So, your new program can be easily entitled "Productivity & Profitability Incentive Program"

How do you get started? First you must do some research within your company. The easiest way is to develop a survey or questionnaire for all of your employees. This can be a simple letter form, which asks the following questions:

1. If we instituted an Incentive Program, would you like to be involved?
2. Would you prefer the Incentive Program to be based upon your Productivity or the Profitability of our company?
3. If you performed well during the program cycle, what would you prefer to receive?

A. More Vacation Time
B. Money
C. More Responsibility
D. A Trip
E. A "Big Screen TV"
F. A Camcorder
G. A Night on the Town for you and a Guest
H. Other__________________________

Get the Idea?

You have the Option of having each person sign the form, or not. Some employees would prefer to be anonymous. Others prefer you to know what "Turns them on". Either way, You get the benefit.

It is important to remember that paying a person their salary is not the only way to get productivity. In the old days, it was it isn't.

An effective Incentive Program can be measured easily.

It can be based on a number of items, for example:

A. Over-staying Lunch or "Coffee Breaks"
B. Arriving Late to Work
C. Running out at Closing Time (with things piled up on their desk)
D. Projects not completed on time
E. Lack of Team Spirit
F. Lack of work ethics
G. Lack of work
H. Poor sales
I . Lack of neatness
J. Not answering the phone properly
K. Poor Grooming
L. Not asking questions
M. Poor follow-up
N. Seeming not to care

I am sure if you own an agency, and you are not located in "Walden Pond" many of the above items plus others, are happening to you right now.

You get back your survey and you decide how badly you need things "fixed" in your office. You then must decide if the Incentive Program is to be done monthly, quarterly, or annually. The best, for your first time, is to actually do it on a monthly basis. The reason is so your employees can actually see someone "Win" and they then say, " It is a real program, I can do just as good as Sally, and I can win next month."Remember, all Incentive Programs are "SELF LIQUIDATING". That means that it costs You, the employer nothing, since You are setting the "Goals" or "Targets" or "Benchmarks" for your employees.

If they hit the mark, you are gaining much more than losing. Think of it this way;Joe is currently generating $25,000 per month, the Incentive Program takes Joe's average sales, and the "Program" states that Joe can earn an additional "X" % for each month he does $35,000 or more. The increase in business will more than pay for Joe's Incentive and best of all You will be earning more money.

Another example: Your receptionist is pleasant, but unfortunately she doesn't always take the proper messages. Perhaps she can't juggle 2-3 calls at atime. You can create a Program based on providing her with a "script" for taking messages. Most receptionists are just thrown onto the phones, without any training. If your messages start getting better, etc., she gains a "prize", you gain a more productive employee. Incentive Programs don't have to generate money, they can generate better skills.

Another effective yet inexpensive Incentive that has been used for years, but it is still very effective: "Employee of the Month". For outstanding service or anything else, the person receives a plaque, which should be conspicuously placed on the wall behind where they sit (for all to see and admire). The Plaque, usually done in walnut and gold, should have their name engraved on it. They usually say its not important, but they are always "proud" to hang it.

You must however remember not to set the goals too high. If no one can reach the goals or targets, you are defeating your own Program. People need to strive for something, they need to be excited again about their job. You need to be excited again as well. These types of Programs can not only achieve more dollars for you and make your employees more productive, but can also give them a challenge where they can "earn" something besides their salary. It also is a great way to build loyalty and prove that You care...

How often do you hold an Office Meeting? We know all the excuses you make to yourself: "You don't have time to breathe", "People don't want to stay late or come in early", "We are too busy". You can make every excuse You want to, BUT You must do it. An easy way, preferably once a week, but worst case scenario, once a month, everyone, no excuses, must come in or stay late for 1 hour. Early is usually better. You buy breakfast, coffee, tea, some bagels, rolls, Danish etc. You discuss what's hot & what's not. You talk about new things in the industry. You ask if anyone has a problem? I know, I know you don't want to "Open Pandora's Box" and have your employees discuss garbage at the meeting, but better now. If not, they will discuss it during the day with other employees, and soon it will be blown out of proportion. Discuss it now...If you don't have the answer to a question, tell them you'll look into it & get back to them. And you must get back to them that same day. It is important that you show your employees that You Care about their concerns and as busy as you are, you researched the information they asked about and got back to them immediately.

Who said "Owning a Business is Fun"??? You, the employer, must work at it. And you must do it with all the time. Yes, even though you consider your main job selling and servicing your clients, you must "work" on keeping your employees happy. The easiest and cheapest way is through the creation of an Incentive Program or Programs. Good Luck!!!

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