By Debra Flanagan, Siobhan Iwen and PerErik Engstedt

In today’s environment where there is such fierce competition for talent, travel programs increasingly are being used to lure job candidates. More and more, the strict cost-savings programs that became popular in the ‘90s and ‘00s when procurement began taking over the responsibilities of travel from HR are falling out favor, and now we’re seeing the pendulum swing back the other way with travel programs prioritizing the traveler experience. Not only is this an effective tool for attracting and retaining good employees, but it also helps to foster traveler buy-in organically.

And which travelers are companies trying to win over? Increasingly, programs are being targeted to the generation dominating business travel today — i.e., the millennials.

It’s true. Millennials, defined by the Pew Research Center as any individual born between the years 1980 and 1996, are now going on more business trips than their Gen X and baby boomer counterparts. Thus, any company that wishes to stay ahead of the curve should aim to adopt policies and initiatives that address millennials’ unique set of travel preferences.

With that in mind, here are some of our recommendations for designing a millennial-friendly program that will keep this active, adventurous, tech-minded generation engaged and satisfied.

Introduce a social media platform

While technology is at the crux of business travel today, millennials have an appreciation for it unlike any other age group. They especially rely on social media sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram) to get feedback on the places where they are heading and use online reviews for pre-travel research.

Implementing an internal review process or social media offering could be helpful for millennial travelers trying to make a decision about which preferred hotel to book or even where to find the best bakery in town. An initiative of this type would foster internal networking and could improve compliance to the travel policy.

Adopt a “bleisure” policy

Millennials, a group that loves to travel for both business and leisure, are largely the reason why “bleisure” travel has taken off in recent years. More than upgraded hotel rooms and access to airport lounges, this generation prefers having the flexibility of being able to add a leisure component to their business trip.

Consider allowing travelers to take an extra day during long trips to get out and enjoy the sights before returning home and you may just see a rise in morale. (For more on what to consider when implementing a bleisure policy, click here.)

Alternative accommodations like Airbnb

According to a report by MMGY Global, seven in ten millennial business travelers expressed an interest in staying in a shared accommodation, such as those available via Airbnb, while on a business trip. And as a Bloomberg report indicated, as of April 2017, more than 250,000 companies were signed up to book and manage travel through Airbnb, compared to just 250 in 2015.

While some may have safety and data reporting concerns over this alternative accommodation, today’s technology enables Airbnb’s data to be integrated into American Express Global Business Travel’s own reporting platform, so our clients easily can keep track of itinerary information for both corporate reporting and travel risk management purposes.

Give gamification a try

A few years ago, gamification was the big buzzword in travel management circles. Though it never really took off how the industry anticipated (mainly because managers didn’t wish to pay for behavior that’s already expected of business travelers), it might be worth exploring with a generation who grew up on video games and social media. Rather than offering monetary incentives, use gamification as a way to interact with millennials, keep them engaged and recognize their progress — which all can have a deeper impact than financial rewards. If rewards are given, consider a nonmonetary incentive, like extra time off for a bleisure trip, since millennials value work flexibility over higher pay.

Ask for their feedback

At the end of the day, it’s not really our opinion that matters most — it’s your millennials’. They are the ones who can give you the most insight into what they’re seeking from the program. It’s important to obtain their feedback and communicate directly with them to find options to enhance the program. Once a few potential solutions are identified, research the financial implications and determine which ones can be implemented and where compromises can be made. It could be as simple as offering reimbursement for onboard Wi-Fi or giving ride-sharing alternatives a test drive. Whatever solutions you come up with, track the progress by analyzing the impact the travel-centric program has on your employee recruitment and retention efforts.

American Express Global Business Consulting is here to help you. We provide customized solutions and support to help our clients optimize every facet of their travel programs. Please contact us at [email protected] to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our subject-matter experts.