January 30, 2019

2019 Business Travel Trends: CFOs look to more people-first policies

The TripActions Team
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We recently teamed up with Skift to publish our 10 Business Travel Trends For 2019 Report, which outlines the industry shifts and trends you need to know this year. As part of our ongoing series highlighting sections of that full report, which kicked off with our last post on the blurring lines between business and leisure travel, we now take a closer look at how business culture is becoming increasingly people first, with CFOs playing an integral role in that more contemporary approach.

The Joys & Pains of Business Travel

Look to your left. Now look to your right. Most of those people in your office are ready and willing to hit the road. Virtually all (92%) respondents in our 2018 business traveler survey said they want to travel for work, with 90% seeing travel as a perk of their job and 80% feeling more excited about their jobs after traveling.

So the good news is that people love to travel for business. Now for the bad news.

As anyone who’s ever left their house knows, any trip can come with its own set of headaches. This is particularly true for road warriors who repeatedly subject themselves to the stress of cancelled flights, plans switched up on the fly, and less-than-healthy habits. In fact, a 2018 study from the Harvard Business Review found that frequent business travel (those who spend 14 or more nights away each month) had a heightened risk of traveling-induced negative health consequences, including anxiety, depression, and overeating or drinking.

Out-of-touch company travel tools and policies can further compound the pain. We found that 75% of business travelers are required to use company-provided booking tools or resources, yet half of respondents still purchase out of policy, often because a lack of relevant inventory and subpar user experience drag out the booking experience and waste a lot of precious time.

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Supporting Travelers Supports the Bottom Line

The picture isn’t much brighter once travelers are actually on the road. Our survey also found that 64% of business travelers felt unsupported when dealing with unexpected issues that arose during the course of a trip.

This kind of stress, which can stem from policies that put compliance above employee happiness, isn’t just bad for the people in these situations — it’s also bad for business.

It makes sense that employees that arrive at their destinations feeling rested, focused, and supported are better equipped to accomplish whatever business task sent them off on the road in the first place, and the numbers back this up. Data from a 2017 Harvard Business Review article shows that companies that put their people first are 4.2 times more profitable than companies that don’t. Organizations “that invest most heavily in employees’ work environments also have 1.5 times more employee growth, have twice the annual revenue, and four times the profit per employee.

In short, companies that recognize and adapt to their business traveler’s needs stand to benefit from happier, more productive employees, and so in 2019 we see a once unlikely hero emerging in the push to put people first in order to more effectively grow the business: the CFO.

CFOs Lead the Way to People-First Travel

Once solely focused on budgeting and financial controls, the role of the chief financial officer (CFO) is now expanding to include even more considerations around how to best drive growth for the business. According to a McKinsey Special Collection Report, four in ten CFOs now spend most of their time on strategy, transformations, or other non-finance-specific areas, and managing employee performance is rising on their list of priorities because of its effect on the bottom line.

When it comes to business travel, the answer to the common woes listed above lies in implementing people-first policies that mix individual employee responsibility and accountability with company-wide “support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel.”

This support can also come in the the form of re-visiting travel tools and policies to better balance cost and compliance controls with flexibility and personalization. For example, TripActions’ booking solution offers access to a vast inventory of travel options that, coupled with machine learning capabilities that prioritize user preferences, drops average booking time from over an hour to just six minutes.

And we’re not alone — plenty of other emerging user-friendly solutions are targeting a more efficient and productive process for employees and CFOs alike, include spend management companies Divvy and Expensify, and the corporate-centric arm of Lyft, Lyft for Business.

The impact of simplified business travel on employee happiness is undeniable, and this can directly affect the profitability and growth of any organization. As a result, the CFO’s increasing commitment to reducing employee friction in the business travel experience can only be expected to grow in 2019.

For an ever deeper dive into the emerging role of CFOs in implementing people-first business travel policies, along with other must-read trends, check out the complete 2019 Business Travel Trends Report.