Expert insight

Does your travel policy cater for different groups of business travellers?

4 April 2018 by Trevor Elswood

Forget about tailoring travel programmes to millennials. Travel policies need to be flexible and cater for different personas instead. 

There’s clearly many behavioural trends around millennials and they are a significant group to keep an eye on. By 2020, millennials will be the largest demographic in the workforce but I don’t think organisations will solely focus on age demographics in the future.

Much is publicised about millennials and leisure travel, and there is a blur when transposing these macro trends to business travel – perhaps because business travel is dictated by a corporation’s budget, practices and policies, instead of an individual’s budget and needs.

So I believe that organisations won’t focus purely on age demographic labels; more I believe organisations should group their business travellers together by ‘personas’ who by their outcomes are doing similar things or displaying certain traits. They will create personas around the behaviours that certain groups display, so in this way you could argue organisations will need traveller policies, rather than travel policies. Technology and the evolution of personalisation will power and enable this subtle shift.

Should organisations offer bleisure?

Take the trend of ‘bleisure’ – adding leisure time onto the beginning or end of a business trip. Is that driven by age? If you don’t have dependents, you may have more time for leisure travel; however, this could equally be someone younger or older whose kids have left home.

The phenomenon of bleisure requires a different approach to the way policies are applied. How would business travellers pay the company back for leisure travel costs incurred within a wider business trip? Corporate online booking systems are loaded with policy booking controls – how will they adapt to allow travellers to add on, say, two nights at an out-of-business travel policy hotel? Processes would need to change to give them that ability.

You also then have liability and safety. Say a business traveller extends a trip to China, is the company then still responsible for them?

Or are they personally liable?

At the same time, companies have a responsibility to educate and inform newer and more vulnerable travellers, and ensure they are preplanning and conscious of any dangers – that becomes more difficult when you extend out leisure beyond the core company requirement of the business trip.

Does bleisure make economic sense?

There is another lens you can look through, however. Say an employee adds a weekend stay to their business trip, they might be in better shape after it. So do you focus on the trip cost rather than the individual items? A business traveller might have stayed an extra two nights but as a result, they are more productive and effective during the business trip. They may have even accessed a cheaper airfare as they travelled over the weekend. It’s thinking less about the unit costs and more about the total trip cost and how that can make sense and add organisational value. It’s a key consideration in our Smarter Working approach – that balance of cost, connectivity and wellbeing.

Adapting your travel programme for the sharing economy

An organisation may have a group of travellers who are more willing to try new and creative things. Sharing economy type providers have been driven by millennials, who research suggests are more social in their attitudes.

I think you have more opportunity with adventurous persona groups to introduce new ways of doing things, whether it’s different types of accommodation or car sharing – so not necessarily an age trend.

Again you have got to think about how this impacts your travel programme. If you don’t embrace new types of service provider, is there a danger of non-compliance to programme or missed cost/value opportunity?

Organisations need to track the trends and opportunity encouraging this culture but ensuring that the relevant content is available and build preferred supplier programmes and policies that are responsive to those needs.

Using a different style of network also means that you not only have to plan for your policy but also for your supply chain. You need to think about what your preferred partners are going to look like in five years time and you may find that they are different to the ones you are dealing with today.

Is change coming?

I’ve not seen a seismic change in thinking around travel policies and tailoring them to different personas, and it would require a broad shift on the part of organisations. That said, it is subtly coming into discussions and considerations.

Where I have seen a shift is in organisations looking at travel benefits as a way to attract new talent. Some major accountancy firms, where the average age profile of the organisation is lower, are vying for talent by using incentives around travel. This isn’t about solely around millennials but more about talent retention – good quality travel equals a retention tool for them.

Flexible travel policies that cater for different groups of business travellers could likewise act as a retention tool.

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