New workforce, new travel policy

It is time employers take a different view when drafting a corporate travel policy for millennials, opines Prashant Kirtane, co-founder & CEO of Travelstop

The differences between millennials and their parents’ generation are well documented by social commentators and journalists. From shouldering the blame for inflating costs of avocados or their infamous bouts of self-entitlement, these cultural attributions have painted a negative picture of the millennial generation and have certainly raised many eyebrows and deepened frown lines when debating the future of humanity.

However, these negative representations for millennials are not showing the complete picture; instead, it depicts a shift in priorities and values for millennials.

New corporate travel policies have to be drafted for millennials

Researchers have extensively looked at the differences between millennials and other generations, emphasising the focus placed on values and people for millennials. An increasing number of companies are taking a clear stance concerning controversial socio-economic topics – such as Netflix considering withdrawing investment over Georgia’s anti-abortion bill – has garnered overwhelming and extensive support among the generation.

From an economic perspective, this value-based focus will directly impact the workforce environment, especially with millennials set to make up three-quarters of the global workforce by 2025.

Compared to generation X and Y, millennials have very different priorities when looking for a job. One example would be business travel, which 75% of young professionals consider a perk. Consequently, nearly 39% of millennials view the lack of travel opportunities as a reason to reject a job offer. Millennials are less focused on booking an expensive hotel and or a business class seat on airlines but, instead, more concerned with convenience and accessibility. Coupled with their tech-savviness, a particular focus on work-life balance and the preference to mix business and leisure – now mashed together into ‘bleisure’ – millennials are there to shake-up a company’s organisational culture, including corporate travel policies.

As such, companies should keep the following key points in mind.

Personalisation & flexibility
An essential trait for millennials is to garner life experiences; the self-actualising need to forge one’s life path translates into the interaction with the corporate’s travel policy. While Generation X is content with following the standards laid before them – and often long-winded and arduous – process, millennials are used to navigating and making booking arrangements in a matter of minutes.

As such, a new and modern corporate travel policy should include access to a management tool that allows easy and quick bookings of hotels, flights and other services. There are tangible corporate benefits to allow employees greater flexibility. Greater ownership of the business trip improves time efficiency, and employees are more likely to find the best deal, which is beneficial for employers. Additionally, it shows the trust and the value an employer has in his employee.

Variety & bleisure
Traditional Generation X saw travellers choose a default hotel and over time, become a valued member of their loyalty programme. However, millennials no longer subscribe to this philosophy – a study showed that 21% do not belong to a loyalty programme. Instead, millennials prefer ‘alternative opportunities’ that allow them to explore novel places, fuelling the rise of Airbnb’s and the global sharing economy. Subsequently, millennials expect the flexibility and variety of offerings in their day-to-day to translate into their business life.

Bleisure, which refers to extending a business trip by utilising personal vacation days, has become an established practice among millennial travellers. Linked directly back to the need to experiences, a McKinsey study in 2015 details the increasing popularity of bleisure among corporate travellers. Subsequently, modern corporate travel policies need to take into account the changing priorities of their employees.

Technology and millennials have become inseparable. This generation has grown up with its ever-presence in their daily life; in combination with the online presence, tech-savvy millennials can research every possible topic within minutes.

As such, it is logical that the mobile-first millennials will expect their company to embrace the new technological reality. One clear example would be supporting mobile-friendly applications, such as enabling employees to submit expense claims via smartphones. More than nine-out-of-ten millennials own a smartphone, according to research conducted by Pew Research Center. Submitting a stack of paper receipts for expense claims is an outdated policy, both time-consuming and inefficient.

In conclusion, it is imperative for companies to maintain an up-to-date travel policy and to adapt to the new workforce make-up. Since 2015, millennials represent the bulk of the workforce and companies need to adapt to the changing priorities and expectations of them. Evaluating the corporate travel programme should be part of the modernisation progress.

Furthermore, it should be mentioned that not only millennials are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. With the digitalisation push, all employees are confronted with the new technological reality and by increasingly adapting to it, employers will be hard-pressed to modernise their policies accordingly, starting with their corporate travel policy.

Prashant Kirtane is the CEO and co-founder of Travelstop. The Singapore-headquartered company aims to revolutionise business travel for SME’s by providing a flexible and integrated solutions for business travellers.

Prior to Travelstop, Kirtane co-founded vacation rental platform Travelmob, which was acquired by Expedia’s subsidiary Home Away. Prior to his ventures into startups and the travel/vacation industry, Kirtane worked for 12 years at Yahoo!, where he was senior director of engineering (video).

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