10 Apr

Building Incentives for Millennials


“The first generation to be heavily motivated by non-monetary rewards”

Millennials are the largest age group to emerge since the baby boom generation and a group that Deloitte predicts will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Born between 1980 and 1994 they are beginning to come into their own in the workforce and are having a big impact on not just businesses, but the world around them.

As a generation that came of age after the 2008 financial crisis and the first generation to have grown up totally immersed in a world of digital technology, they are the most educated generation in Western history and are empowered, purpose-driven, hyper-connected, and open-minded.

Unlike the generation before them, millennials are the first generation to be heavily motivated by non-monetary rewards. Due to millennials entering the workforce with large amounts of student debt, life milestones such as weddings and home ownership are being delayed and because of their financial instability, they’re driven more by access than ownership. According to a Harris study “…this generation not only highly values experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them {…} happiness isn’t as focused on possessions or climbing the career ladder.”

Creating incentive travel programmes that appeal to all generations is essential, but with millennials set to make up half of the global workforce by 2020, focusing specifically on their preferences will help engage a high majority of your workforce and strengthen your incentive strategy. So, the big question is, what do millennials look for in an incentive programme?

Five-star Luxury – With A Difference

Whilst generations before them focused on luxury, comfort and relaxation, millennials are different from their predecessors as they are more open to a diversity of lifestyles and backgrounds and are looking for unique adventures that immerse them in new cultures and way of life. However, it’s important to note that travel and accommodation still need to be the 5* experience, but with a difference. Millennials don’t want the high-end, extravagance of a luxury hotel resort, but something unique such as an eco-camp in Patagonia, wilderness lodges in Canada or a luxury tent in the middle of African safari experience.

Incorporating Sustainability and CSR

In a recent survey, 61% of UK events professionals have seen an increase in the importance of CSR in the events industry over the past 12 months, with millennials being a driving force of this as 87% of them agree that CSR enhances delegate engagement at an event. Millennials have a strong desire to make the world a better place and incentives are a great way of allowing them to make a real difference. However, sustainability and CSR reach so much further than simple activities we are currently practicing and to really appeal to the millennial audience, the activity needs to mean something and make a real difference. In 2018 there were several large campaigns all over the world about the impact of ocean plastic, therefore incorporating a beach clean-up activity as part of the incentive was both topical and a way of making a noticeable, measurable difference to the country they were visiting. The results of incorporating sustainability and CSR initiatives in an incentive will be not just a legacy for the individual but for the company and the project.

Diversity and Wellness

Wellness tourism became one of the fastest growing segments of global travel trends last year and millennials were definitely a driving force behind it. Whilst generational groups such as ‘baby boomers’ still opt for the luxury spa resorts, the landscape of wellness travel is expanding and reaching much further than a tranquil outdoor pool and a massage. This hyper-aware generation doesn’t just focus on their physical health but their mental health too. They’re looking for creative stimulation, physical challenges and connecting to nature through outdoor activities. This new generation of workers want to be taken to places completely different from their day to day life to give them a space to re-connect with themselves and the world around them.

Creating Memories

Unlike their parents, Millennials place less value on collecting material goods and instead are motivated to collect experiences. They are aware that life is short and often live by well-coined phrases such as “YOLO” (you only live once) and “FOMO” (fear of missing out). Millennials are seeking memorable experiences by doing things they’ve never done before, going places they’ve never been and experiencing new and exciting things. They don’t want to go to places they would on their summer holiday or do things that they could buy with their own money – they want incentives to be a way of creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Whilst these are some of the key things millennials are looking for, it isn’t saying other generations don’t agree with these trends. Ultimately the most important thing for any incentive trip is to consider the dynamics of your audience and focus on the individual to make it a personalised experience, not a lollipop led tour. Include opt-out alternatives on your agenda, so you’re offering your employees a level of choice and freedom, but perhaps most importantly, create an experience that links back to the brand, values and audience – whatever generation they might be.


Business Essentials is Africa’s premium networking and business directory.

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