The millennial generation are now the world’s most frequent business travellers. By 2020, they will account for almost half of global business travel spending, and 60% of them will live in Asia.
The workforce is changing, so travel policies are having to adapt too. For larger companies – and increasingly smaller businesses too – the cost of hiring new talent, and a very competitive global talent pool has forced a re-think.
Companies in Asia find it harder to attract and retain talent than competitors in other regions, according to research by WillisTowersWatson. Keeping employees satisfied is therefore high on the corporate agenda.
Twenty-first century travel policies are tools that help employers to engage with, and even reward their employees. The days of forcing business travellers to stay in hotels or travel on specific carriers purely because the prices are advantageous to the company, are gone.
A 2018 survey amongst business travellers found that 90% of millennials regard travel as a perk of their job. A further 39% would not take a job that didn’t allow them to take work trips. 80% felt more excited about their roles after travelling on business.
As Millennial and Generation Z employees gradually take over the workforce, they bring with them fresh needs, tastes and demands when it comes to travel. For example, 36% want to stay in boutique hotels or Airbnb-type accommodation. The same group is also motivated more by peer recommendations, shared via social media, than by loyalty points and reward schemes.
Technology is a key element of flexible travel programmes. Today’s tech-savvy traveller expects the same seamless experience from an Online Booking Tool (OBT) as they do from Amazon or, more pertinently, the Online Travel Agents (OTA) like Expedia and Booking.com.
Some research estimates that half of millennial business travellers don’t use the booking tools provided by their companies. Lack of inventory is a major issue here, with 83% spending over an hour booking a trip. 64% of say they don’t get enough support when things go wrong. Don’t forget that this is the ‘always-on’ generation, constantly connected to their mobile devices, which means there’s no reason not to stay in constant contact with your travellers.
These statistics suggest a real disconnect between the needs of today’s business travellers and their predecessors. The shift in traveller priorities alone is justification for travel policies to adapt and become more flexible. But it isn’t the only reason.
A study of business travellers in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Singapore found that around 35% of those subject to company travel policy do not always follow them. Building greater flexibility into the range of products available to travellers can actually increase compliance.
A motivated and satisfied workforce will be a highly productive one.
As ambassadors for their parent companies, the objective of business travel is to do business. So, travel policies need to provide employees with adequate down-time and well-being support so that they are at the peak of performance during their trips.
A common mistake made in many travel programmes is forcing a traveller to stay in a hotel on the opposite side of town, instead of as close to the meeting place as possible. Use of time and work-life balance are now key considerations in any travel programme.
Younger business travellers want to see more of their destinations, and increasingly they will want to stay an extra night or two for leisure purposes.
These so-called ‘Bleisure’ trips are becoming popular, so travel programmes are beginning to give employees this additional service, even if they feel guilty about doing so. Asian business travellers are twice as likely as their European counterparts to include weekends when they book travel dates, according to McKinsey
Your travel programme is a potential tool for employee engagement and motivation- providing your travel policy offers a combination of choice, effective booking technology and support services to travellers. A flexible travel policy will make for to more satisfied employees and more productive business trips.
Here’s our easy step by step guide to creating a flexible travel policy
1. Work out who your business travellers are and what they want from a business trip. Do travellers book their own flights, and if not, who does that for them? Keep in mind who your travel policy is intended for at all times.
2. Review the objectives of your travel policy. Is it purely about saving money or is traveller welfare and well-being truly a priority? Do your travellers realize what those goals are and understand the link between business travel and company productivity?
3. Consider the sharing economy providers like Airbnb, Uber and others. Your travellers will use these providers in their private lives, so why shouldn’t they do so in the workplace. However, make sure your TMC has necessary systems flexibility to be able to manage shared economy suppliers in the same way they do traditional providers.
4. Find out what your travellers think about your current travel programme. Are there any common complaints or issues? Use all the information at your disposal to build up an accurate picture of what works and what does not.
5. Does your company’s culture encourage or impair introducing more flexibility into travel policy? You will need to decide how much flexibility you give your travellers; giving them a wider choice of hotels but within the same budget for example.
6. A more flexible travel policy doesn’t mean that the rules should not be enforced. Make sure your internal systems – or external TMC – has the capability to track and analyse non-compliance, to find out the reasons for that non-compliance and feed that information back to you for consideration.