The Case for including Spouses on Incentive Trips

When is it appropriate to invite spouses to join in the fun

By Michelle Warren

Kevin Blandford caused a viral sensation recently for his hilariously miserable online photo album chronicling an incentive trip to Puerto Rico. The photos—frowning while scuba diving, swimming in a waterfall and partaking in fruity cocktails—were a joke, of sorts, cooked up by Blandford to make his wife feel better about being left at home, while he and 200 co-workers enjoyed a reward courtesy of their employer, a US telecommunications company.

No doubt many achievers understand the dilemma of enjoying the fruits of their labour, while dealing with the wrath of spouses left behind. For companies and planners the question is when it’s appropriate to invite spouses to join in the fun. For incentive travel, the team at Bond Brand Loyalty in Toronto says including spouses makes good business sense because families play an important role in an individual’s success.

“It’s a recognition of not just the achiever, but the support of the spouse,” says Bond Brand Loyalty event manager Megan Napier-Andrews, adding that if employees are putting in long hours to meet goals, no doubt spouses are making sacrifices too.

Incentive travel also provides spouses with insight into company culture. It encourages internal networking and attendees often bond, forging lasting friendships. Also, there’s a heightened level of pride when employees can share achievements with family—it cultivates loyalty on a whole new level.

Event manager Liz McKendrick, also with Bond Brand Loyalty, says the best time to announce next year’s travel destination is during a group event at this year’s trip. “You see everyone turning to their spouse saying, ‘You better work hard because I want to go.’”

When Single Makes Sense
Sometimes, leaving out spouses is OK, but only if it’s a short “bonus” trip, perhaps based on a strong quarter and designed to motivate towards a larger annual goal and the bigger, spouse-friendly, prize.

Work-related travel, however, is different. If employees are on the clock, be it a trade show or company conference, there’s no obligation to include spouses.

When a company hosts a national meeting, for instance, it’s business, attendance is mandatory and days are jam-packed. There’s always a social aspect, but the focus remains on networking or teambuilding. “Companies want people captive. In this case, a spouse can be a distraction,” says McKendrick.

Larger industry or think-tank events provide some leeway, with organizers offering “family tickets” as a strategy to encourage attendance at these major destination conferences. However, experts agree employers should not be expected to cover spousal costs.

For solid ROI, companies should instead focus on incentive travel, which proves more effective when spouses, too, reap the rewards. Memories made last a lifetime, creating goodwill and momentum that can influence a company’s bottom line long after tans fade.

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