The Employee-Friendly Evolution of Corporate Travel
October 18, 2018

It used to be that corporate travel was akin to Don Draper flying from New York to California, not a single phone or laptop in sight, with nothing to do on the plane but relax and think deep thoughts.

By the 2000s, that scene had shifted completely. Suddenly it was the Up in the Air era, where business travel was no longer a luxury, but a necessity resulting in “road warriors” who were constantly battling forces such as flight delays, overbooked hotel rooms, and shoddy in-flight WiFi. Knowing that travel was essential to their business’ growth, but without the tools and knowledge to do better, companies often ground down their employees with travel policy compliance demands. Multiple connections, back-to-back trips, whatever it took to get them in the room for that big meeting within budget, travel would be booked, and travelers would shoulder the burden.

The Price of Rigid Corporate Travel Programs

We are only now realizing that this “road warrior” mentality has come at a cost. And yes, it’s been a pretty big cost. It turns out that while inflexible booking rules prevented employees from spending more, that rigidity also often prevented their companies from saving more. For instance, after a peak time, prices may drop even lower than a company’s static policy allows, giving employees permission to spend more than they need to (up to the policy limit) and costing the company's bottom line those savings.

Maybe more importantly, this rigidity also came at a people cost. In the short-term, the demands of being on the road often left travelers stressed, tired, and distracted, leaving even the greatest salespeople at a disadvantage when it came to shining in the meetings they traveled for in the first place. And over the long-term, burnt out employees would simply seek employment elsewhere, leaving their companies deprived of, and again seeking, valuable talent.

And now, the corporate travel industry landscape is shifting yet again.

“Frequent travelers have been asked to do more at the expense of sleep, home life, and job satisfaction. It’s become a hot topic in the corporate travel world because companies now have the technology and the money to fix this problem.”

As the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney recently wrote, companies are increasingly recognizing that investing in policies and solutions that put their travelers first is good business. Rested, focused, and empowered employees are better positioned to succeed in the meetings they’re traveling for. Not only does this newer focus on traveler wellness help increase job satisfaction and decrease attrition, job candidates are now looking at corporate travel as a preferred benefit when deciding which companies to work for. In fact, nearly 40% of Millenials now say they categorically wouldn’t take a job that didn’t allow them to travel.

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Leaving travelers feeling empowered by corporate travel doesn’t have to take much. It can be as simple as allowing employees to choose a hotel that’s next to their meeting location so they don’t have to stress about being late, or select a flight that gets them home in time to pick up the kids from school.

Unfortunately, many legacy business travel management solutions and technologies simply aren’t capable of delivering the range of inventory choice and booking flexibility that a traveler-centric program requires.

Corporate Travel Policies Can Put Employees First

Not all hope is lost, though; regardless of your company’s current travel solution, there are some things you can do right now to start prioritizing corporate traveler wellness, and thereby improve policy compliance. First, we recommend simply surveying your travelers — what do they like? What’s causing them stress? What changes would they like to see? Measuring traveler satisfaction will give you a powerful baseline so you can more precisely target your efforts.

Second, there are new solutions emerging that are making it easier for travel program managers to tailor business travel policies to suit individual employee preferences. TripActions, for instance, leverages machine learning to identify individual travelers and surface flights and hotels around their specific preferences and previous bookings, and these features are not accidental. We’ve built them precisely because we believe the traveler experience should be considered within a company's travel program.

Corporate travel has to support your business goals, and in turn that means supporting the travelers that help you meet those goals. If you haven’t already, start looking for ways to put the mental and physical well-being of your travelers in the spotlight, and watch your business take off.

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