Case Study

Case study: Incentives drive motivation and sales at Hays Travel

uploaded on 27 June 2023

Hays Travel motivated employees with an incentive programme that increased like for like sales by 20% and saw insurance sales rise from 0 to 30%.

Hays Travel is proud to be the UK’s largest independent travel agent with over 4,000 staff working in over 400 hundred retail shops or remotely.

Success is driven by knowledgeable staff who are passionate about finding the holiday that best meets their customer’s needs from a wide supply chain of tour operators.

While proud of its success, the business wanted to create a scheme that showed employees a clearer cause and effect between the good work they do and the reward they receive. They also wanted to reinforce the company mantra that passion, excellence, and hard work deliver good things. This led Jonathon Woodall-Johnston, Chief Operating Officer at Hays Travel to review its employee reward programme

Achieving a clear line of sight

After speaking to staff, it became apparent they would be motivated to push for even higher sales performance if they were rewarded for every booking they make. All the while supporting an independent choice about which tour operator they recommend to customers.

One of the problems with the old scheme was the length of time between earning and receiving reward. Reward needs to be immediate to encourage repeat behaviour. The old practice of including a reward in an agent’s monthly salary meant it wasn’t visible or sufficiently distinct from their salary to be valued. Staff felt the reward would be more motivating if it enabled them to purchase something that met their individual needs.

From an operational perspective the scheme had to be easy to run for internal payroll and external suppliers.

Putting a smile in every employee’s wallet

“These considerations gave us the blueprint for a new reward scheme devised around a pre-paid Mastercard, branded with the Hays Travel Smile Reward livery,” says Jonathon.

“On joining, every employee is given a card and earns a financial reward for every booking they make. The level of reward is determined and paid for by tour operators in the Hays Travel network, who update promotions monthly. Hays Travel ensures staff continue to select the holiday that best suits their customers’ needs by keeping their knowledge up to date through the Hays Travel Academy.

“Reward is transferred to the employees Smile Reward Card the day after it is earned. Employees can spend their reward anywhere that accepts Mastercard.

Top earning agents are showcased in a monthly newsletter where reveal their top tips for maximising sales, how the reward will be spent and the difference it is making to their lives. This ensures active and ongoing engagement with the scheme.” 

Impact on sales and business performance

“Since working with Edenred to introduce the new incentive scheme, we saw a 20% increase in like for like sales. Which is impressive when you consider, pre-scheme, year on year sales increased between 11% to 14%. Crucially, the biggest uptake in sales has come from previously low to middle performers, which is the litmus test for whether a scheme is effective to motivate staff.

Insurance sales grew during this period in some cases from 0 to 30%. This is significant to Hays Travel because insurance is a key area for sales growth.

There’s no doubt in my mind the scheme reinforces company culture and desired behaviours.  Employees say that every time they reach for their wallet to buy an item they really want, buying it with their Smile Reward Card means are reminded of all the good things their challenging work delivers for them.

We knew for the scheme to positively impact sales performance agents had to engage with the scheme. An exceptional 100% of sales staff participate in the scheme from the first day they join the company. A solid 96% of staff continue to open the monthly e-shot.

It is clear from staff testimonials that they view rewards as a means to enjoy the life they want to have.  One of our e-shots featured the story of a mother who bought her son a bike for Christmas with her Smile Rewards. Another young employee was motivated to earn sufficient reward to live off, enabling him to save his salary toward the deposit on his first home. Our apprentices say they use it to enjoy a night out when funds are running low in the run up to pay day.

We also knew we had to get suppliers to engage with the scheme for it to work. Each month every tour operator in the Hays Travel network updates their offers and promotions. The results speak for themselves. Suppliers actively enquire about how they can become a part of the Smile Reward scheme – no persuasion needed.

I’m impressed at how the new scheme has supported us to adapt to the changing needs of the business.  A few years ago, we welcomed ex-Thomas Cook employees to the Hays Travel family following Thomas Cook’s collapse. New joiners were used to selling products from a single tour operator. We used the card to onboard new joiners and encourage them to consider options from multiple providers across our supplier network.

We were clear from the outset that the new scheme shouldn’t place an added burden on our HR, payroll teams or supplier network.  I’m pleased to say that Edenred takes care of the administration and development of the scheme.”

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