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23 Nov 2023
by Andy Philpott

How Hays Travel uses rewards to drive motivation and sales

The travel agent has re-engineered its incentives scheme to create a bigger impact on business performance

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Incentive programmes are the most effective way to boost the performance of sales teams. But schemes can easily fall flat if they are too complex and don’t make rewards visible and relevant.

With Edenred’s help, Hays Travel, the UK’s largest independent travel agent, has rebuilt its incentive scheme to overcome this barrier and has increased like-for-like sales by 20%.

Hays Travel employs more than 4,000 staff working in 400 retail shops or remotely.

But, while proud of its success, the business wanted to create a new 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 idea that passion, excellence and hard work deliver.

One of the problems with the old scheme was the length of time between earning and receiving the reward. The 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 buy something that met their individual needs.

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

Put it on the card

Jonathon Woodall-Johnston, Hays Travel Chief Operating Officer, says: “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.

“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 sales people continue to select the holiday that best suits their customer’s needs by keeping their knowledge up to date through the Hays Travel Academy.”

Under the new scheme, reward is transferred to an employee’s 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 email newsletter where they reveal their top tips for maximising sales, how the reward will be spent and the difference it is making to their lives. This helps ensure 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,” says Woodall-Johnston. “Before that, 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 in motivating staff.”

Insurance sales also 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. Now, 100% of sales staff participate in the scheme and 96% open the monthly email.

“We also had to get suppliers to engage with the scheme for it to work,” says Woodall-Johnston. “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.

“The new scheme has also helped us 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. And all without adding any extra burden on our HR, payroll teams or supplier network.”

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