Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are entering employment in vast numbers, and will form 50% of the global workforce by 2020. Their career aspirations, attitudes about work, and knowledge of new technologies will define the culture of the 21st century workplace.1
Travel procurement has settled into a balance between traveller needs and corporate requirements. Policies have been built around notions of compliance, centralised control and “following the accepted processes”.
Unfortunately, the new generation of employees has different expectations, especially around travel. And as an ‘old school’ travel manager, you need to understand the differences and start accommodating them or you’ll run the risk of losing this talent pool.
One of the key characteristics of millennials, according to most studies, is a strong desire to avoid the rat race that they associate with their parents.
So there is a strong emphasis on work/life balance and on meaningful experiences. For business travel, this translates into a tendency to combine leisure activities with the business trip in what’s recently being termed 'bleisure'.
Already, it’s clear that most Australian organisations are coming to terms with travellers tacking a ‘holiday' onto their business trip, but few policies adequately deal with the ramifications.
For example, how do you assert your duty of care obligations as an employer when your staff go off on a skiing holiday? Who is liable if they are hurt, fall ill or lose their company laptop while on the leisure component of a business trip? And what about the traveller’s right to privacy while on holiday? Does that trump your need to know where all your travellers are at any time?
Then, there are your suppliers: is your TMC equipped to book a Nepal expedition or a Seychelles surf safari? What do they know about accommodation options in Brazil or Senegal?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to these challenges, but you certainly do need to ensure that your policy addresses the issues.
The sharing economy
As a ‘connected’ generation, millennials tend to automatically seek solutions online. They embrace the new ‘sharing economy’ and are more likely to use Uber than to hail a cab.
While you may have a robust accommodation policy and plenty of appropriate approved properties, your millennial travellers are just as likely to search Airbnb as they are to use your online booking tool options.
And while the next generation of travel providers, like Uber and Airbnb, are trying to roll out business-friendly services, most travel policies have not yet been adapted to embrace them.
Millennials will not stop using these providers just because they’re not officially ‘approved’, so if you want to manage millennials, you will need to find ways of integrating the new offerings into your program. Or, at the very least, you’ll need to find ways of capturing the data so that you can fulfil your duty of care obligations.
Mobile and always on
Travel managers have spent the last decade trying to get travellers online, encouraging them to use online booking tools and web-based expense reporting.
But millennials present a different challenge. They are committed technology users, and rely on their smartphones and tablets for almost every aspect of their lives – from socialising to market research and business communication.
This ‘mobile imperative’ means that all your travel tools need to be compatible with the devices your travellers are using. They’ll want to be able to book and change trips on their phones, so your self-booking tools will need to be configured accordingly. They may not fill in expense forms, but they will take a photo of their receipt on their phone, so you‘ll need to integrate that into your EMS.
And travellers will load and use apps that you probably haven’t heard of – apps for evaluating hotels, for booking restaurants and all kinds of travel-related services that may or may not be covered by your policy.
You can either ignore these apps (at your peril), or embrace the mobile revolution and educate yourself about the best apps for your travellers. You may even want to get custom apps developed to meet your organisation’s needs.
So where to from here?
Millennials are here to stay and some organisations have already made radical changes to their travel policy to accommodate the next generation of employees. Some leaders have taken the opportunity to reinvent their approach to business travel, treating it as a reward rather than a chore and making it easier to do the right thing by taking a more liberal approach to travel compliance'.
If your travel policy doesn’t meet the needs of the next generation of travellers, you need to change the policy because the millennials aren’t going to readily yield to the ‘my way or the highway’ paradigm, resulting in less travel policy compliance. And research tells us that this crop of employees isn’t known for loyalty, so they’re likely to walk if they see their employer as unreasonable and set in their ways. Companies will also need to find ways of embracing the new ‘sharing economy’ and find ways of integrating the new offerings into their travel policy and program.
To fulfil your duty of care, companies will need to find ways of capturing this data. Millennials are committed technology users, meaning that all your travel tools need to be compatible with the devices your travellers are using. All the available research suggests that millennials will continue to blend work and play during business trips and employers need to embrace this.
1. From: “Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace”, by PwC.