A global world morphing at lightning speed. Millennials who greatly value work-life balance. Human resources’ growing management of business travel.
These and other changes reshaping the workplace are some of the topics that The Washington Business Journal had several respected HR leaders address at a panel discussion hosted by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) in December 2016.
And while the event did not address how such shifts can affect the travel department specifically, there are certain trends that both HR and travel managers should keep on their radar as they develop their people, policies, and programs.
Below are some key takeaways from the event—specifically from Danielle McMahan, vice president of HR at American Express GBT, who was a panelist that day.
Making better travel policies
According to McMahan, the freeze on travel that many corporations swiftly instated after the stock market crashed in 2008 has thawed completely. In fact, these days, as companies are competing and conducting business on a much more global level, business travel is red-hot, which puts a lot of pressure on employees to be on the road.
McMahan explained this is one reason why the human resources department is getting more heavily involved in travel policy and management.
As they seek new candidates and aim to become an employer of choice, HR leaders need to make their travel programs appealing, McMahan explained, noting, “How happy people are on the road and the ease of travel are becoming differentiators in attracting and retaining talent.”
Yes, a company’s travel policies can be a deal breaker for some (potential) employees—as it should be. Business travel can take a serious toll on a person’s mental and physical health.
To keep your travelers engaged and motivated to perform their best, HR and travel managers absolutely must have practices in place that cater to their travelers’ well-being.
Everything from booking a room at a hotel with a nice gym where their business travelers can exercise and alleviate jet lag to booking direct flights, and maybe even pampering them with an upgraded seat in business class are the little details that can make all the difference.
Minding the millennials
Interestingly, it’s actually the millennials who are driving major changes in corporate travel policies.
As McMahan said that day, “Millennials are the work-life-balance generation. They have demands and needs, particularly around travel and employee engagement, and their expectations in the workforce are different and more advanced than their predecessors.”
And though it may be easier to overlook the expectations of younger employees who have not had as much face time at a company, it’s not necessarily the wisest move—especially when you consider a new survey conducted by MMGY Global that details how these tech-savvy, socially minded millennials now go on more business trips than any other generation.
And unlike the generations that have come before them, millennials are not at all shy about making additional requests surrounding travel.
McMahan said it’s becoming more and more common for these younger employees to ask if they can bring family members along on a trip or for time off immediately upon their return.
“These are new things and policies we are grappling with as HR leaders from the engagement perspective,” McMahan said.
Another request many millennials are raising these days? If they can tack on some kind of personal travel to their business trips—what famously has been dubbed as “bleisure travel.”
“When millennials book their travel online,” McMahan said, “they want to be able to very quickly pivot and add that [bleisure] trip on. So we as corporations not only have to provide those tools, but we also have to have policies around them.”
Incorporating such policies certainly is more complicated than figuring out if an extra day in a foreign city will count as a vacation day or not, though.
According to a study commissioned by Collinson Group, almost three-quarters (72 percent) of business travelers bolt on additional leisure days to their trips, but many may be doing so without the protection of their firm. The study indicated that despite 89 percent of companies allowing bleisure travel, almost a third (31 percent) do not extend the protection offered by their corporate travel risk policy to cover these additional days.
So before authorizing bleisure travel, be sure to clearly articulate to your traveling employees where the respective responsibilities lie from a policy and insurance point of view—and carefully review your duty of care obligations.