The Guide Points System


Finding and preparing staff for various roles within an aerial adventure company takes significant time and resources. Retaining staff should be given as much time, attention, and creativity as staff acquisition and onboarding. Without this investment, we’re hopelessly consigned to the hiring and training loop, adding stress to our every day.

There is ample information available to help us understand the factors that contribute to employee job satisfaction and retention (see “Staff Retention, Part 2” on p. 26). Some of these factors, like competitive pay, work/life balance, job security and stability, and supportive leadership, are obvious. If we get those things wrong, it won’t matter what else we do, talented employees are not likely to stay with us long-term.

Other factors aren’t quite as self-evident, and can be easy to neglect or miss completely. Those factors include opportunities for growth and development, a positive and supportive work culture, recognition and rewards for good work, and opportunities for social interaction and team development.

Path to success. Even in seasonal work like guiding or facilitating, people want a path to learn, grow, and acquire new skills, and to make more money because of that advancement. Creating opportunities for employees to shine and be celebrated for their contributions is a big part of fostering and feeding that kind of work environment. Providing those opportunities within a framework focused on teamwork and strong interpersonal relationships contributes greatly to overall job satisfaction.

A culture like that makes recruiting and retention exponentially easier. Ignore those factors and be prepared to compound the difficulty of finding and retaining quality staff.

Developing an Incentive Program

So, how do we intentionally incorporate these dynamics into everyday operations in a way that makes them self-sustaining amid all the other things we have to keep up with? For us at The Adventure Guild, game theory provided the answer.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, game theory is a mathematical approach to understanding decision-making and strategic behavior. It was developed by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern in the 1940s. Among other things, employers use it to design incentive programs that encourage employees to behave in ways that benefit both themselves and the company.

For example, a company may offer bonuses or other perks to employees who achieve certain goals. This is a win-win arrangement: Employees benefit by performing well and the company benefits from increased productivity and profitability.

Using the theory, we developed a guide incentive program that focuses on the often-overlooked factors shown to increase employee satisfaction and retention.

The Guide Points System

The creatively titled “Guide Points System” is an integrated part of our employee and operations manual. It includes various components that incentivize teamwork, provide rewards for specific actions and attitudes, and provide recognition based on guest and peer feedback.

As the name implies, the program is built on a system of points accrued through various actions and behaviors. Each guide accumulates points over weeks, months, or the entire season, that can be used to acquire various items, benefits, or rewards

Kudos. The points system recognizes things that are important to our business and culture. For example, since ensuring that staff make good money is key to retention, we encourage tipping and have incorporated the Guide Points System into the tipping process to allow guides to earn additional rewards.

To do this, we make tipping as easy as possible for patrons. We place tip boxes in a prominent location beneath a world map on which patrons place pins of where they are from. Each guide has their own box with their photo on it and a QR code that links to their Venmo (a mobile app-based payment service). In addition, we provide small note pads and golf pencils for patrons or other staff to use to leave notes of thanks or appreciation in a guide’s tip box. Each of those notes constitutes a “kudos” and is worth a set number of points in the incentive program.

Role-specific points. Guide of the Day, Week, Month, and Year recognitions are also part of the system, each with varying point values. Role-specific points can also be earned for things like serving as a lead guide or course manager for the day, executing an intervention, and volunteering to come in early.

Why do we ascribe point values to these various jobs? In the case of the course manager or lead guide, we only need one person to fill each of those roles on any given day, but we may have multiple staff qualified to serve in those roles. And because those jobs often keep a person from guiding as much as they might otherwise, the person who takes on that role will miss out on a percentage of tips for the day. So, in recognition of that willingness to serve, the volunteer earns points for the day.

In the case of the Guide of the Day recognition, at the daily close of operations, the team individually and confidentially nominates one of the team members who, in their opinion, hustled, worked hard, had a great attitude, or otherwise exemplified the ethos and customer service our program values. The team member who is voted as Guide of the Day receives points. This in turn incentivizes more of the behavior our company values.

Individual and team. The Guide Points System allows guides to accrue points in two categories: individual and team.

Team points are awarded to the entire team for things like a five-star review online, positive customer feedback through email or social media, a monthly guest count that exceeds the average, or set time periods with no near misses or incidents. Team points can be redeemed for things like candy for the crew, feed the team on taco day, or pizza and drinks for lunch. These rewards benefit the entire team rather than individual team members.

Individual points are earned in myriad ways, including kudos, Guide of the Day/Week/Month recognition, picking up unscheduled shifts, getting a perfect score on a secret shop, returning seasonally, and more. Individual points accrue until a staff member cashes them in, and can be redeemed for paid days or weeks off, wholesale gear and equipment through our various pro-deal manufacturer relationships, or even a cash bonus at the end of the season.

Tweaks and changes. The program has been refined over time to address issues of fairness among staff or cost to the company. For example, in the case of banking points toward a cash bonus, we found the need to adjust the points-to-dollar ratio in order to make the option fiscally viable with a large staff but still generous enough to honor the hard work and dedication the staff had invested to receive it.

Ultimately, the Guide Points System helps us create the culture we are looking for and improves employee satisfaction, thus improving retention—which is the best return on investment we could ask for.

For more information on the Guide Points System, including a written plan, go to


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