With the national labor market tightening to levels not seen in two decades or more, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that job candidates are comparing companies’ benefits packages before accepting a new job…or that existing corporate employees are leaving, or considering leaving for jobs that offer less costly insurance benefits, more paid time off, or more fun and friendly office environments.
But increasingly, job candidates these days are asking recruiters about their companies’ travel policies, and current workers are making it clear that they’ll jump ship if doing so means that a more employee-friendly travel policy will ease their work/life balance issues.
“The management path of corporate travel is changing,” says Greeley Koch, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, a trade group for travel managers at mostly medium-sized and large companies. “Traditionally corporate travel was located in procurement operation because it was always seen as a cost item.
“Now we’re seeing (Human Relations) getting more involved in corporate travel programs,” he says. “Thirty-three percent of our companies are saying candidates are asking to see the travel policy before hiring on. Its slow movement, but we’re seeing either some strong links to the HR departments being established for corporate travel offices, or in a few cases we’re actually seeing travel offices move formally from the procurement area to HR.”
“Why?” Armed with new data and insight from “Managing the Modern Business Travel,” a new study from ACTE and American Express Global Business Travel, Koch says it’s because business travelers today are evolving away from the long-clichéd “Road Warrior” stereotype that featured a near-universal willingness to accept delays and dead time while on the road, and to put up with spotty communications with the home office and inconsistent or ineffective mobile travel management tools.
The “Modern Business Traveler,” as defined by ACTE in its previous study a year ago, is less willing to put up with dead time, travel delays, and being effectively out of control of their own travel needs and services. They also want to spend the minimum amount of time away from their homes and families. Therefore they have little tolerance for inflexible corporate travel policies that force them into wasting time to catch a later flight on a “preferred” carrier, to stay at an inconveniently located “preferred” hotel, or to use less flexible and more hassle-plagued forms of conventional ground transportation rather than a sharing-economy service like Lyft or Uber.
“Travelers are now more focused on work/life balance,” Koch says. “The days of ‘send me out and I’ll take some extra time off to see the sites while I’m there’ are gone. People don’t want to be away from home more than they have to. They want to get their business done and get home.”
ACTE’s most recent study – a survey to which 174 U.S., European and Asian corporate travel managers (overseeing corporate travel budgets from less than $1 million to more than $250 million a year) responded – showed that 28% of those companies now are seeing their employees’ satisfaction with the corporate travel policy as an issue in employee retention. Indeed, 10% said it is a “significant” retention issue and another 18 percent termed it a “growing” issue.
Additionally, 31% of respondents said they’ve received requests from employees for exemptions from the existing corporate travel policy in relation to those employees’ staying on the payroll. In other words, more workers are threatening, or at least strongly implying that they’ll quit and go to work elsewhere if their current employers don’t them some slack on various aspects of their existing travel policy. The study did not offer examples, or say what some of the requested exemptions were, but it’s not hard in these days when growing number of corporate travelers don’t actually live in the same cities as their corporate offices (and telecommute from home when they’re not on the road) that they would seek exemptions from travel policy rules mandating use of preferred carrier that has little or no service near the long-distance employees’ homes.
Koch suggested that younger corporate travelers in particular, are more willing, even eager to use “shared economy” services like Uber or Lyft, and like Airbnb rather than traditional rental car or executive car services or conventional hotels. More recently, he added, even older corporate travelers – i.e., over age 40 – are becoming more open to, or even desirous of such travel option. But that’s a challenge for many corporations, who have over the last couple of decades evolved to take their so-called “duty-of-care” responsibilities very seriously.
Duty-of-care refers to a corporation’s moral, ethical and often legal responsibility to assure the safety of its employees traveling on business away from home. Doing that typically requires that corporations engage security advisors to help them determine which hotels in what neighborhoods in whatever city their employees will be visiting on business are safe; which ground transportation companies are reliable and ethical, and where travelers may find other local services that are safe to use. Corporations also contract with big, global brand name hotels or well-known and highly regarded hotels in various international cities because they have the technology in place to help corporate travelers who run into health, security or even financial problems on the road.
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