As a business travel manager, you have two key goals. First and foremost, you want to keep your bottom line under control; but you also want to be sure that your travelers are as happy as possible when they have to be out on the road. Travel is inevitable for many businesses, but not every employee enjoys travel—and many of them quickly become frustrated with the process. Balancing the seemingly conflicting demands of happy employees and happy finances may seem to be an insurmountable challenge, but with some effort, you can transform your travel policies to create happier travelers without negatively impacting your bottom line.
Step One: Evaluate Employee Needs and Desires
What is it that your employees really want when they have to travel? Take the time to evaluate the specific needs of your employees. Keep in mind that your employees are unique: each one has their own desires when it comes to travel. Some of them want to be back in the office as soon as possible. Others prefer to have time to explore new destinations when they're out on the road. Conduct a survey to understand the genuine needs and desires of your employees, then reshape your travel policy to allow employees to experience as many of those benefits as possible. Keep in mind several key things.
- Benefits matter. Employees readily admit that the benefits offered are, other than salary, the greatest incentive for taking or keeping a job—and their appreciation for those benefits extends to travel, as well. Offering incentives like an extra day at a great location, bonus pay for travel, and other key benefits can help entice employees to enjoy travel more, often without significantly impacting your bottom line.
- Employees want—and need—work/life balance. Overworked employees can impact your bottom line in ways that you didn't expect: increased turnover decreased productivity and a range of other ways. Check your employees' travel schedules and make sure they have plenty of time at home between trips—and that they have time to enjoy the locations where they're traveling.
- Safety is a key element of travel for many employees. They want to know that the company is looking out for them no matter where in the world they've been sent—and an effective travel policy that helps protect them and ensure their comfort is critical to keeping employees happy when they travel.
Step Two: Check the Benefits of Travel
Travel isn't just something that employees have to do. In many offices, it can even be viewed as a benefit! Travel can reduce stress, boost morale, and even give employees the opportunity to expand their horizons and view part of the world that they've never seen before. By creating a company culture that speaks to the benefits of travel—and gives employees the opportunity to experience them—you can make travel a more exciting and beneficial process for the entire company. Consider offering some of these changes to your policy to help make employees happier without creating a significant impact on your budget.
- Permit employees to take vacation days at their destination. This will increase overall satisfaction since it reduces employees' personal travel costs and allows them to enjoy their trips more when the work is done.
- Allow employees to take their families along—and share in corporate discounts and advantages! Create a policy that allows employees to pay the extra cost of taking along loved ones so that the company doesn't bear the burden of that cost.
- Design a plan that allows employees to work from home for a few days following a trip for added flexibility. This will improve the work/life balance and lead to happier employees overall.
Step Three: Work with a Travel Management Company
If you're looking for a way to improve employee satisfaction with the entire travel experience without negatively impacting your business's finances, why not turn to the experts? A great travel management company can offer a number of benefits that your company might not be taking advantage of. Consider:
Take advantage of all the discounts a travel management company can offer. Many travel management companies already have arrangements with airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, and more. By working with them, you'll be able to take advantage of those great discounts for your company—and in some cases, those discounts will pay for themselves!
Know that your employees are safer and better protected no matter where they're traveling. You want a travel management company that can be an immediate point of contact for employees when they're traveling—no matter what goes wrong. From following natural disasters in the area to help provide employees with a safe route out to providing support when a connection is missed at the airport, a travel management company can significantly reduce the stress involved in travel.
Provide better accommodations for your employees. Traveling business class is one surefire way to increase your employees' comfort level, but do you know which airlines offer the most comfortable flights at a reasonable price? Which hotels live up to their hype, and which ones in the area fall far short of the mark? By working with a travel management company, you'll get better, more comfortable accommodations for your employees—and avoid the places that simply don't meet their expectations.
Work with your existing travel policy. You want a travel management company that will work with your company and your employees to ensure a more satisfactory experience for everyone involved. By choosing a great travel management company, you'll get a company that is willing to work with your existing travel policy—not around it.
Balancing financial demands with the needs of employees doesn't have to be the most stressful part of your job. As you deepen your understanding of the specific needs of your employees and shape a company culture that promotes the benefits of travel, you'll find that employees are, overall, much happier with the travel arrangements—especially when you work with a travel management company that takes their needs into consideration and provides the great travel experience your employees are hoping for.