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Midweek Motivation How To Incentivize Our Best Teammates [Mega Thread]

Once you've come to grips with the fact that few employees will likely ever have the same level of passion or commitment that you do, you turn to the next best thing:

"How can I best incentivize them to reach their full potential and KEEP them at my business?"

I wanted to start a thread of some great ideas I've learned in the last few weeks of attending conferences, with the hope that YOU can jump in and share something that's worked in your business. I will update the main post with ideas from below.

Vamos...

Cold Hard Cash: I don't think I've found a more universal incentive than cash money bonuses. Make it rain. A few ways...
  • Cash correlated with doing a good job: @Todd and his brilliant process for printing EVERY published review, highlighting in YELLOW the word "Clean" in each review. That was worth $10. Then highlighting in GREEN any "descriptor" (super, extremely, very, etc) preceding "Clean". That was worth $5. And paper-clipping the cash to the print-outs.
  • Cash tied to company profits: MikeH MikeH explained to me a way to tie upper-management bonus structure around the financial growth of the company
  • JeffJ JeffJ offers his reservation specialists cash based on how many personal details they can glean from inquiries and then add to the database or CRM.
  • For contractors Randy Randy used to operate everything on commission splits for tasks which created stability in profits and removed the stress of being on call 24/7 making business growth and operations more efficient/enjoyable
  • @Susanne gives her cleaner (who is also our check-in greeter) 1% of gross as a bonus in addition to her invoiced amount

Vacation (Rental) Experience: Perhaps the coolest way to reward AND give your team mates an idea of the greater purpose we're all working towards (and how often do great improvement ideas come out of this idea too!)
  • Sleepthroughs is how Michael aka. StaySavvy StaySavvy outlines his methodolgy giving a team member (or several) actually staying a night in the home and behaving like a guest on vacation. Cooking dinner, using all the offerings, and observing some of the factors that may slip through the cracks of a normal walk-through.
  • Many great workers will refuse vacation so consider the "Forced Vacation" concept to achieve this one :)

FOOD: I crack up at how often I heard how some elements of food were incentivizing teammates. It's incredible how homemade food can act as a way to make people feel good!
  • Doubling up on the free nights idea, I love owners and managers who host their team at one of their vacation rentals for BBQs with food and booze!
  • Robin Robin and his wife Heather cook food for their entire housekeeping team and those dinners ROI is intangibly massive.

QUESTION: What incentivizing is working in your business? And perhaps more broadly, what motivates YOU (or has motivated you in past jobs)?
 

StaySavvy

Counselor
Inner Circle
Accelerator
Author
We've actually just rolled this out (because I came across this tip before) so I'm eager to see what kind of impact it has
Cash correlated with doing a good job: @Todd and his brilliant process for printing EVERY published review, highlighting in YELLOW the word "Clean" in each review. That was worth $10. Then highlighting in GREEN any "descriptor" (super, extremely, very, etc) preceding "Clean". That was worth $5. And paper-clipping the cash to the print-outs.

I'd love to learn more about these! MikeH MikeH JeffJ JeffJ , especially the preventative maintenance Randy Randy
  • Cash tied to company profits: @MikeH explained to me a way to tie upper-management bonus structure around the financial growth of the company
  • @JeffJ offers his reservation specialists cash based on how many personal details they can glean from inquiries and then add to the database or CRM.
  • For contractors @Randy used to operate everything on commission splits for tasks which created stability in profits and removed the stress of being on call 24/7 making business growth and operations more efficient/enjoyable

When it comes to incentives, something worth considering is the line between what should be done anyways (as a function of role/scope) vs actually going the extra mile. For example, getting a 5-star rating for cleanliness is the baseline standard. When guests comment about it, that doesn't necessarily correlate to going the extra mile (although I do believe it's a step in the right direction which is why we've started to test it). It's a similar predicament for the "value" conversation.

Also curious to know if anyone who's implemented creative incentives has actually run an ROI analysis on them?
 

Jefferson

Attaché
Inner Circle
My most loyal employees seem to share some similar sentiments so Ill share them here:
1.) They trust me - they often say things like "I always know you've got my back". Which means I always give them the benefit of the doubt and I'll go to bat for them at the cost of my own reputation.
2.) They have a "higher" purpose - One employee I gave a special assignment to save a high value customer. I called his team the "seal team 6" (after the team that took out Bin Laden.) Its one thing to shoot for high quality cleans. Its another thing to be given the mission of providing guest experiences that will last a lifetime.
3.) They feel valued - Actions speak louder than words on this one. You can tell an employee you appreciate them every day but if you pay less than market rate they wont believe you. There is a lot of value in cold hard cash but that's not the whole picture. You also have to throw in those spontaneous lunches and parties just to say thanks.
Hope that helps!
 

HeatherB

Counselor
Inner Circle
What a great thread! And, very timely, as those of us who are scaling and looking to hire during a hiring crunch desperately look for best practices that will ensure that the talent we hire stays for the long haul. At StayLuxe, we have considered several bonus structures. A concept that I would be interested in addressing here is related to StaySavvy StaySavvy's question about ROI. I wonder how this affects a company's bottom line when it comes to taxes. I heard recently that it can be advantageous to pay employees right at the market rate and then simply implement bonus structures to keep your employment taxes low. I know that may sound like nickel and diming, but when you're still a company in its infancy, every dollar, and cent, for that matter, counts and allows for future growth and hiring. Any thoughts?
 

Karla

Karla, Owner of Tropical Blessings
Inner Circle
Myrna (now Deputy Commissioner of Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs) has now been my PM for 3+ years and our relationship gets better and better, we are definitely “in like Flynn” and although very few owners hire local I’m ever so glad I did.

I have “thought” about the sleep through experience and since I always close for September (hurricane month) it suddenly occurred to me to invite Myrna to stay at Tropical Blessings for the entire month which turned out to be brilliant. My punch list had 26 items on it (repairs and upgrades) and not only were 24 projects completed, Myrna came up with a couple more ideas.

What was REALLY fantastic was a Surprise Party for the Big 6-0! Family flew in from the States and although Myrna was a bit suspicious when she saw a lot of cars the family DID pull off the surprise and everyone had a blast and Myrna had LOTS of fun spoiling nieces during their stay. That extended sleep through was such a great success on so many levels I’m now thinking I might do it every year.

Also, getting Myrna her own company cc has been so helpful I’m now wishing I had done it long ago.

My Ladies Team is small and we now know each other very well, enjoy each other, and of course totally all get along. Sure, cash rewards are nice but I find super personal birthday and holiday gifts to be strongly appreciated and I know my team well enough that it’s easy to choose things they’ll like. That personal TLC touch means so much and I really have fun with it too.

As far as food goes, yes people DO love it. We used to get our goodie baskets but Sam and Jack’s (so sad) went down with Covid so Myrna’s latest assignment is to see what she can find at Northshore Deli that “most” would like and, hey, enjoy the “taste test!”

I’m more proud of Tropical Blessings than ever before and, yes, rates are going UP! I still owe ToonTownRob ToonTownRob more news about that but, boy oh boy, he has helped me a lot!!

It has been quite the crazy year with Covid but Tropical Blessings is going in so many positive new directions that all of my team is smiling big time about it and guest feedback? I’ll just say: Ooh la la!

Of course my agenda is never ending but when the fire is fueled by inspiration I know by now that new ideas will never stop so we just keep traveling the Path of Positivity, one step at a time. (Yippeeeeee!)
 

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
Karla Karla you never cease to amaze me with your thoughtful-first entrepreneurship. Having met Myrna and stayed in your home...

Here's the episode for anyone who hasn't seen Karla dancing:

I can attest to the fact that whatever you are doing is working!
 

TrishMixer

Attaché
Inner Circle
What a great thread! And, very timely, as those of us who are scaling and looking to hire during a hiring crunch desperately look for best practices that will ensure that the talent we hire stays for the long haul. At StayLuxe, we have considered several bonus structures. A concept that I would be interested in addressing here is related to StaySavvy StaySavvy's question about ROI. I wonder how this affects a company's bottom line when it comes to taxes. I heard recently that it can be advantageous to pay employees right at the market rate and then simply implement bonus structures to keep your employment taxes low. I know that may sound like nickel and diming, but when you're still a company in its infancy, every dollar, and cent, for that matter, counts and allows for future growth and hiring. Any thoughts?
 

BrendaS

Sampiere (Brenda) Family
Inner Circle
I’m surprised that no one has mentioned sharing positive reviews. The heartfelt reviews are what motivates me so I take the time to forward them to the team and the cleaner that cleaned the property of cleanliness was highlighted. I also forward them to owners. Owners really love them too.

We all want to be paid well but really I think people want to feel good about what they do and know that our guests appreciate their work. When you can make a family’s vacation amazing, it makes all the hard work (and dealing with all the crazy ones) worth it!
 

Christina

Counselor
Inner Circle
Our team loves a $20 bill - real cash. Also, we are working on how to set up profit sharing for 'vested' members and thinking about how many hours they have worked for the company to get there. Also, we ask our team to stay in our properties overnight at least or two nights and we pay cleaning during lower season (which we did not have in 2020/2021 so far), but they can provide feedback about the stay which is helpful and they get a couple of nights in a cool spot. We have also done gift cards and incentives added to paychecks, but the CASH is KING.
 

HeatherB

Counselor
Inner Circle
I’m surprised that no one has mentioned sharing positive reviews. The heartfelt reviews are what motivates me so I take the time to forward them to the team and the cleaner that cleaned the property of cleanliness was highlighted. I also forward them to owners. Owners really love them too.

We all want to be paid well but really I think people want to feel good about what they do and know that our guests appreciate their work. When you can make a family’s vacation amazing, it makes all the hard work (and dealing with all the crazy ones) worth it!
This something we have implemented from almost day one. Our cleaning company definitely appreciates this.
 

AFirmani

Counselor
Inner Circle
At the moment it is just me and my cleaning crew and I had not really set up a way to say thank you to them personally. I will have to give this some thought! These ideas are wonderful! And super timely - as we are off house hunting and will be building a team soon enough! Keep the ideas coming!
 

Sallie

Envoy
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
Author
My best hiring lesson
I'll always remember the general manager of the storied Round Hill in Jamaica telling the assemblage at a Caribbean Tourism Organization annual conference, "You hire the right people, then make the people right."

Our team in Mexico
Our now-sold vacation property is in a small village on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Wages in Mexico are ridiculously low, so instead of thinking, "How can we automate this?", you give people work.

We employed a property manager (who handled maintenance and guest services, not bookings), a housekeeper, a yard guy, and a pool guy.

Our first property manager was charming but turned out to be dishonest. We begged his best employee, who'd just quit because she couldn't stomach his sleazy ethics, to start her own property management business. We promised we'd be her first clients, mentor her, and set up her marketing materials.

She took the risk and has flourished. Her business is expanding, and she's now mentoring others.

Our first two housekeepers were sweet, honest and reliable, but couldn't hack the time limits and high standards of cleaning a vacation rental. We finally found a gem—also sweet, honest and reliable, and takes great pride in her work. She coped well with same-day turnarounds, and enjoyed meeting guests.

Pay and perks
During the first wave of Covid, we invited our property manager to live in one of our casas for the May-October summer season. We normally didn't rent it then, and we didn't want her living in her crowded rental unit compound. She accepted, and loved experiencing what guests experienced, along with the ocean view, sound of waves, zippy WiFi and pool.

It also opened her eyes to what's possible for her, and got ideas for growing her business.

We paid our housekeeper more than the market rate. She, along with the yard guy and the pool guy, received an equitable distribution of guest tips, in cash. (We never charged guests a cleaning fee. We emphasized to guests that tips are completely voluntary, yet always appreciated. Workers in our village expected tips on top of pay.)

We also encouraged her to take multiple Pilates sessions to help her strengthen wonky knees as well as her core (we paid for them). On checkout days, she could take any guest food left behind (we instructed guests to only leave unopened containers/packages, and to NOT leave any booze).

Our yard guy and our pool guy were also paid more than market rate, and received guest tips. The pool guy also works in construction, so he'd barter extra work in exchange for functioning but rusted ceiling fans and other large pieces as we replaced them, to use in his projects.

As we replaced guest items, staff were offered bed pillows, lightly worn towels, lightly rusted Tommy Bahama beach chairs, and other items.

These were in addition to paid vacation time, medical expenses, and Mexico's end-of-year bonus. When we sold our property, each received a very generous cash payout, per Mexico law (the local practice is to hire a lawyer to negotiate a greatly reduced payout, but we paid everyone 100 percent).

Soft bonuses
Our property was well maintained, so their work wasn't jammed up with fixing, repairing, and making do. I and our property manager outlined a monthly maintenance calendar, and shared our reservation calendar, so she'd keep everyone informed about what was going on and when.

I also asked for their advice and recommendations, and usually took it. For example, I asked our yard guy about how we could compost kitchen food waste, and he took great pride in building a compost system (since this was an extra project, he also received extra pay).

Finally, I consistently thanked them for their work, mentioned specific things I and the guests greatly appreciated, and spoke to them in Spanish as much as I was able.
 
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RuthM

Envoy
Inner Circle
Great thread! I agree with the above.

We are experiencing a hard-to-find-employees market so my first thought is to HIRE well. I am a strong believer in word of mouth and recommendations. Wow, did we get lucky. I called a friend who downsized her vacation rentals and she pointed me to two ex-employees that she loved and I hired one of them and she’s turned out to be amazing.

Money is important but many employees also (especially) want to :
*feel empowered to make decisions,
*be heard,
*receive constructive, non-emotional criticism or suggestions, and
*receive praise and emotional recognition for a job well done.

Building rapport and relationships with your team + paying the right amount (I pay above market rates if I have above market performance) makes ALL the difference.
 

JoanneL

Attaché
Inner Circle
This is a great topic, especially in today's current environment. Our company (New England Vacation Rentals Cape Cod) from Day 1 has always worked as a team. We are all incentivized as a team. It is important for all of us to have a good overall financial package that includes a salary, good medical and dental plan, PTO time, 401K that the company has an excellent match, end of season nice bonus if we reach set goals (not just financial) and now profit sharing. This year we had our own company retreat to Boston for 2 days that we did our own company review for 2021 and set goals together for 2022. And of course, we enjoyed all of the beauty of Boston: sites, duck tour, and the food! We found this was perfect for us this year with post-Covid and sometimes the big vacation rental conferences are heavy in selling us new services and products and not always on individual attention to our needs. We still love those conferences but this smaller "retreat" was perfect for us this year!
 

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Robin

Counselor
Inner Circle
We have used the Outside Magazine Best Places to Work survey as a way to have an open conversation with our team about what makes Moving Mountains a "best place to work". Every year Outside Magazine conducts a survey of the companies that apply, asking employees to rate their employer on a myriad of questions from leadership, communication, compensation, benefits, and culture.

Results are compiled and the top one hundred are published in a list each November. We learned a lot about what our team wanted when we first applied in 2018. We did not make the top 100 list, but we gained insight on benefits and where we were falling short on communication and culture. We regrouped, made changes, and in 2019 we made the list as one of the top 100 places to work in the USA.

This award/recognition has enabled us to up our game on hiring. Employees seek us out for jobs, and we are attracting some incredible talent. And, more importantly, we have answered our employees based on their feedback on how to make Moving mountains a best place to work. It's not just compensation or benefits. Obviously, those things matter, as does having a clear and visible culture that you live to each day, Recognition of collective and individual successes is high on our list - highlighting surveys and reviews and spiffing employees who are called out personally.

The BPTW survey allows us each year to have an ongoing conversation with the team, and we continue to listen and tweak what we do. In 2020 we skipped applying due to the turmoil of the pandemic. We applied in 2021 and will be able to announce the results next month (Hint: it's good news again :) ).
 

SScurlock

Envoy
Inner Circle
Yellow Jersey
I have twice used the idea of highlighting "clean" in printed reviews for the year and the adjective "super", "very" , etc. and paid my paper clipped $5 for each clean and a $10 for each descriptor and gave to her around Chrsitmas. Not only did she receive severla hundred dollars, but she felt pride in seeing how her efforts contributed to guests enjoyment of their stays in the homes. ROI? Priceless! She will be with me until she can no longer work. When she takes on additional homes she always lets them know that the homes on the farm come first, and she may have to reschedule sometimes to accommodate me.
 
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