3 ways to use your travel policy as a recruitment tool

Stand out to attract new talent

Lelia Gowland, Principal, Gowland, LLC

As companies begin to prepare for Generation Z (or the iGeneration) to enter the workforce, the key to employee recruitment may become organizational culture and day-to-day work experience. Comprised of people born between 1998 and 2016, members of Gen Z look for a fun place to work and prioritize a flexible schedule and paid time off.

Is your company prepared?

With a burgeoning younger workforce, perks and employee well-being have already become key considerations for job applicants. You’ve heard stories of applicants making decisions based on the free office snacks?

Take this quiz to explore three ways to recruit and retain great people – and prepare your company for the future workforce – by leveraging your travel policy as an employee benefit.

1. Who should fly business class (A or B)?

A: The Senior VP who has a couple annual trips

B: The sales rep who’s on the road 40 weeks per year

Answer: B

In many companies, the travel benefits employees receive depend on their job title, and the SVP would land the schmancy seat. You’ll likely see better result if you cater the travel policy and travel experience to different types of travelers.

Consider how you can leverage your data to better understand who travels with what frequency. Employees will fall into various travel personas, such as:

  • Road warrior: the sales rep or VIP who’s on the road 40 weeks per year
  • Frequent traveler: the marketing whiz who covers several markets and travels a few times a month
  • Occasional traveler: the employee with a couple annual trips
  • Infrequent traveler: that person whose travel is so rare, they email you every 16 months to ask for their login on the travel site

Under the travel persona model, the road warriors get the extra benefit of business class. There’s good reason for this approach. Job-related travel experience affects job satisfaction for 88% of millennial business travelers and 79% of all business travelers, according to a Global Business Travel Association study.

As companies acknowledge the value of travel satisfaction and the costs associated with the poor retention that comes from wearing road warriors out, they should adjust their policies. Companies that are strategic about travel benefits and leveraging their travel policy recognize that travel perks and benefits may be a “nice to have” for our occasional travelers, but can dramatically improve the productivity of road warriors and frequent travelers. Furthermore, as Gen Z enters the labor market, the day-to-day work experience for travelers becomes even more important.

If you’re looking to drive further cost savings or increase traveler satisfaction, consider including the following ancillary services in your travel policy:

  • TSA Pre✓® and/or CLEAR subscriptions give access to super speedy airport security
  • Global WiFi provides secure and readily accessible Wi-Fi
  • LoungeBuddy gives travelers the ability to book into hundreds of airport lounges worldwide
  • AirHelp helps business travelers apply for compensation from the airlines following a flight disruption on flights within the EU

Here’s where your ability to leverage data can become a strength, and as a travel manager, you can become a business strategist and data scientist. While you may have previously used your data primarily to focus on cost savings, you can know and action your data to support improved recruitment and retention. For example, you could use your data to demonstrate to the leadership team: if we pull back on ancillary services to SVPs and provide those benefits to road warriors where we’re struggling with turnover, we’ll improve retention using our travel policy.

When you make those in between moments of business travel a little simpler or easier for regular travelers, you will see more effective and engaged employees. Using travel personas rather than job titles to determine travel services and benefits can do just that.

2. What’s a better policy? (A or B)

A: A unique rate for each element of travel (air, hotel, ground transport, etc.)

B: A total daily rate for each city

Answer: B

Similar to your approach with persona-based policy, you have the opportunity to drive insight from your booking data. Ensure that rather than having one rate applied across all policies, you’re able to learn from booking data insights and optimize in-market. Financially, it should come out the same either way. If you establish your total daily rate based on the aggregated rates for each element of travel, the two approaches could be cost-equivalent.

If we’re focused on traveler satisfaction, giving travelers decision-making power can improve their experience and feelings of autonomy while still keeping travel rates within budget. Maybe a traveler is willing to take a layover to save on their flight and avoid relying on a ride sharing app for ground transport – not everyone has the same feelings about air fresheners as the average Uber driver. Perhaps another flyer is a hotel rewards program/points enthusiast and would rather pay more to stick with their preferred accommodations but skimp on their daily per diem.

If you choose to offer more flexibility on how people can allocate their business travel resources, you can improve engagement with your program and policies.

Egencia recently surveyed more than 5,500 Egencia users across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific to learn more about their booking preferences. When asked about the most irksome aspect of their company’s travel policy, not being able to book added perks (lounge access, fast track security clearance, etc.) was one of the top three complaints in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Sweden.

The daily rate approach allows the employee discretion to prioritize their personal travel needs and travel style. It also aligns with what we know about the incoming generation of workers and their preferences. Regardless of which approach you take, it’s worth noting the importance of adjusting the daily rate for each city. The byproduct of having a daily rate for hotel is that travelers can end up having to book rooms in parts of town that are more remote or dangerous.

Consider how a total daily rate might work within your company. Perhaps there’s a pilot city in which you could explore the approach.

3. What is Bleisure? (A or B)

A: British boy band

B: A policy that allows for travelers to add personal days to their trips

Answer: B

This one’s rather straightforward. (Here’s hoping you picked B).

Through a flexible bleisure policy, travelers can extend business travel for leisure travel, allowing them to stay over the weekend or use vacation time to take advantage of travel benefits and existing business travel. While this is hardly a new practice, particularly for young professionals, the hybrid of business and leisure travel is a key advantage to work travel.

It’s also becoming increasingly common according to a recent report from Expedia Group Media Solutions, Unpacking Bleisure Traveler Trends. Among U.S. business trips, for example, there’s been nearly a 40% increase since 2016. On average, across the five countries surveyed, 60% of trips turned into bleisure in the last year. As Stuart Bruce, a British public relations adviser whose work requires frequent international travel told CNN, “[Bleisure] makes the stress of business travel more bearable.”

Coming back to the changing labor force, Gen Z expects the workplace to conform to their needs according to Deep Patel. They’re looking for flexible schedules and companies that promote a high quality of life. While it can require a bit of logistical coordination, bleisure doesn’t have to cost companies anything extra. Let’s say an employee wants to stay through Monday and make a long weekend of a work trip rather than coming home Friday evening. The employee would be responsible for any flight increase and expenses incurred, and the company benefits from any rate decrease.

Travel policy is one of the most asked questions in the recruiting process, and we can only expect more questions about travel policy and employee quality of life as Gen Z enters the workforce.

These three steps can help you make the most of your travel policy as a recruitment tool:

1. Think about your travelers as personas rather than titles.

2. One rate does not fit all. Continually learn from your booking data to ensure you’re applying the best average daily rate to these personas.

3. Trust your employees, stay flexible with bleisure policy.

We want to hear from you! Do you use your travel policy as a recruitment tool? How could you see these tools working within your company? What’s working? Connect with us on Twitter and share your tips and tricks on polishing your policy for recruitment.

Want to read more from Lelia? Check out How to bounce back from professional setbacks

Lelia Gowland makes work work for women. A sought-after speaker and writer, Lelia helps women negotiate and navigate their careers. Learn more at gowlandllc.com.