Mission statements. Company values. Team building activities. All hands meetings. Team lunches. Corporate initiatives. These are all ways company culture was built and reinforced. Now, employees are working as part of a hybrid workforce, so they might not be together all the time, or often at all. This means their face-to-face interactions are more valuable than ever, and companies have to be more intentional in the ways they promote culture.
So, how can companies foster a positive company culture when their workforce is dispersed?
Through business travel.
The benefits of a strong corporate culture
Employees have greater flexibility with where and when work gets done. They might be working with colleagues in different time zones, or even across oceans! Virtual tools connect teammates, but there’s only so much that can be built through a computer screen. Business travel enables people to have in-person meetings and foster collaboration and big thinking that can only be done when everyone’s in the same room.
Business travel is a relationship builder—seeing colleagues in person allows us to have awareness and empathy for each other. In fact, companies with a strong global travel culture see greater profitability, operational efficiency, market share, innovation, customer retention and employee satisfaction. These are huge advantages in today’s competitive climate.
We also know there are different benefits whether you’re considering internal or external efforts. A recent study from Harvard Business Review revealed just how important culture is to a company’s success. It found:
- 67% increase in collaboration between peers
- 66% greater ability to build strong relationships with coworkers
- 55% better management of dispersed teams
- 40% unification of business culture across the globe
- 62% greater ability to build closer relationships with key customers
- 55% better collaboration between partners and suppliers
- 51% increased understanding of customer needs
- 41% improved customer experience
There are also the benefits of employee satisfaction and increased performance, which leads to talent recruitment and retention. Happy employees perform better, so it’s important to take care of them whether they’re working remotely, or on a business trip. Employers should support their employees’ wellbeing and avoid burnout. Having a strong corporate culture is crucial to driving the business forward.
So, how can you make it happen?
How to build a strong travel culture
Just as your company is flexible in work policies, it should have a flexible travel policy. Employees should have the freedom to travel at any time, to any location, from any distance, to do their job.
Communication is key to a successful corporate travel program. Your policy relies on traveler behavior, so give employees the right guidance to help them be compliant when travel is not urgent. You can also make it easy for them to comply by showing them any policy restrictions when they book in real-time. Adoption is easier when you have a simple solution that meets the travel needs of the employee and company alike. When your policy is built into your travel management solution, it’s better for everybody.
Another “must-have” to make business travel simple? The right technology. Booking a trip should take minutes and be an intuitive experience for the corporate traveler. It should feel personal, natural and easy to do while also offering a global network of travel options from preferred providers. Working with your travel partner that can offer a single platform for all your markets not only makes the day-to-day management easy, it also helps with your post-trip analysis. For example, Egencia Analytics Studio consolidates all your booking data in one place—whether it’s booked online or offline. A travel management company (TMC) and platform that works for all your points of sale consolidates all your data whether it’s booked online or offline. Powerful data visualizations help you understand your travel program’s performance quickly so that you can act decisively. And more importantly, it gives you the ability to take it back to your leadership team and show them how your travel spend worked to achieve your company’s goal.
Business travel is a strategic investment—not a line item
More organizations are starting to see that corporate travel management is a strategic business investment, rather than a cost center. It can be challenging for your organization to reframe this mindset, but it’s worth it. You’ll need to work with stakeholders to get the necessary data and information to define the return on investment (ROI) per trip. This is a good baseline and gives you a metric of success. Next, check-in and align it with your company’s business goals. Is the organization focused on innovation? Overall growth? Retaining clients? Keeping top talent or creating operational efficiency? These are all important to consider, and you’ll want to identify the goal that’s right for your organization.
For example, your company has a goal to retain talent for the year. You’ll need to work with your human resources department to understand the impact that business travel has on teams or individuals. Who travels the most? What would be the cost to replace them? Also, what’s the cost of the work that won’t be done until they’re replaced? This data can then help you build an ROI for your trips.
Next, present your plan to the leadership team. Show the percentage of travel spend that will impact different areas of business. For example, if your company implements a travel freeze, it means nobody travels except client facing teams—a clear message that growth is key for a company. But what does it mean if you don’t let other members of staff travel? For example, teams that drive innovation for a company. What would the cost be if those people didn’t meet in person to innovate for a company? How would that impact the profit and loss in the coming years? Or, if you have a factory and your engineer can’t travel to fix an issue in a production line it impacts the quality of the product, which then affects client satisfaction and retention.
Creating a positive culture at the workplace isn’t the easiest of tasks! But with the right mindset and plans in place, business travel can be a surefire way to do it.
Interested in learning more about building corporate culture? American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) partnered with CULTIQUE to create a comprehensive report about why it’s crucial to think like a Chief Journey Officer and understand the role of corporate travel in the workplace. Check out the white paper, “Why business travel is the center of the new company culture,” here.