Unemployment levels around the world continue to break records. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the United States has dropped to 3.6% in May 2019, the lowest it has been in nearly 50 years. Japan and Germany have seen even lower figures — 2.4% and 3.4%, respectively — as per stats published by the World Economic Forum.

We also are seeing a high staff turnover. Research by Work Institute indicates that approximately one in four employees left their jobs in the United States in 2018 with American employers paying $600 billion in turnover costs that year. The same report found that 75% of that turnover could have been prevented by employers.

To address the high labor demand this competitive environment breeds, many companies are investing more resources to employee recruitment and satisfaction, but some may not realize how much the corporate travel program factors into all this.

According to a study we published in 2017 entitled “The Hidden Expenses of a Cost-focused Travel Program,” of the 750 business travelers surveyed, 84 percent said they would be interested in a job from a different firm that requires similar travel levels if it offers a very attractive travel policy, and 83 percent said the new firm’s travel policy would be at least equally important to, if not more important than, the new pay and responsibilities. Our research also found that travelers in cost-focused programs reported twice as much traveler friction as their colleagues in traveler-focused programs.

As illustrated by the Work Institute study, two of the top reasons that U.S. employees left their company in 2018 were related to work-life balance and well-being — two components that can be directly tied to an employee’s business travel experience. After all, too many non-direct flights and nights away from home without time off can quickly wear on a person’s psyche and personal life, not to mention, erode their overall work productivity and performance.

It may take someone within the corporate travel department to help company leaders understand how the travel program itself can be utilized as a tool to retain and attract top talent. Those who wish to persuade senior management about the necessity of shifting toward a more traveler-focused program may begin to build their case by conducting research on attrition rates and the costs of filling a job.

According to research by the Center for American Progress, replacing a skilled employee costs on average 21 percent of the employee’s annual salary. However, the company’s own talent management department should be able to compile data that gives a more accurate breakdown of what it costs the firm to replace and train new employees, including frequent travelers, who often are among an organization’s top-performing employees.

Using a benchmarking tool to see how other companies’ travel programs stack up against their own also can be an effective way to convey to decision makers about the importance of making the program more traveler-friendly, especially if those other firms are talent competitors.

American Express Global Business Travel offers through our benchmarking platform, Peer Travel Insights, a traveler well-being dashboard that can give a glimpse into aspects of the program that may be negatively impacting travelers’ health and satisfaction, such as the number of nights employees are away and the amount of red-eye flights they are taking. The tool also provides an overall traveler well-being score so companies can see how their program, component by component, compares to their peers.

Going straight to the source by surveying the company’s frequent travelers can be another effective way to understand how the company’s program is perceived. The talent acquisition director also can share if job candidates are inquiring about the benefits of the corporate travel program during interviews and, if so, what they are most eager to hear about.

Once all the data has been gathered and analyzed, it should become more apparent how much of an overhaul the program may need and which areas require attention. The next step is to prioritize and align goals among the key stakeholders who touch travel and come up with a plan to make the program more appealing to current and potential employees. For what to consider when devising this plan, please continue reading here.