With 4.4% unemployment nationwide, the labor market is a sellers’ market right now. Companies are jockeying for top talent, and great employees hold most of the cards.
In this environment, it’s critical to invest in your employees, in order to both attract and retain the talent your organization needs. This includes investing in business travel. Creating a traveler-centric business travel program can help you attract and retain employees, get the most out of them, and even improve your relationships with your clients. You don’t need to hire a private jet, but you can improve your business travelers’ experience easily and affordably. Here are three reasons to improve your employees’ traveler experience:
1) Investing in a pleasant travel experience is good for retention.
Traveling for work might sound glamorous, but for many employees, it’s just one more stressor. According to On Call International, 36 percent of employees say that work-related travel leaves them more stressed than usual.
That’s not surprising, because too few companies utilize travel as a way to attract and retain top talent. In a survey of corporate travel managers by Business Travel News, 62 percent of respondents said that attracting and retaining talented employees was not a consideration in crafting travel policies. Corporations would rather focus on cutting costs.
But sticking your employees in a 2-star hotel with spotty wifi, expecting them to eat cheap take-out and not take any time for themselves, and putting them on the cheapest flights next to a crying baby, is not a wise decision. It may save a few dollars in the short-term, but if it makes your employees more likely to quit—or be poached by a competitor who can offer them less stressful travel—is it worth it?
This presents an opportunity; by focusing on creating a travel experience that makes your employees feel valued, you can offer a perk that most other companies will not. In other words, a good travel policy can help you build a competitive advantage in retaining your talent.
An executive who can relax and stretch her legs on a flight, enjoy the gym at her hotel, and then see a couple of sights between her meetings, is happier than one who spends the whole trip cramped, rushed, and frustrated.
How much do employees care about travel perks? According to a study by U.S. Business Traveler & Travel Policy, perks like hotel upgrades and airline seat upgrades were so important to travelers that they were willing to pay for the upgrades out-of-pocket. Employees care about these perks. For the relatively small cost of a hotel upgrade, you could generate a lot of goodwill with your employees.
2) Investing in employees is good for their productivity
Business travel can have a genuinely negative impact on your employees’ health. One reason is the aforementioned stress, which makes employees more likely to drink more and even smoke more when traveling for business. Another is that when employees feel rushed, they don’t take as much time for themselves. That means they’re less likely to eat healthily and go to the gym.
Columbia University studied 13,000 medical records in a corporate wellness plan and concluded that lots of business travel are associated with poor health of employees. The researchers recommended that travel managers consider renting from hotels that have robust fitness facilities. Investing in hotels with gyms can give your employees an easy way to work off stress and get their blood moving after a long plane ride.
Additionally, creature comforts can make employees more productive. The extra space and padded seats of business class can help your sales manager to be more comfortable, more relaxed, and therefore more creative when she’s preparing for her big client meeting. She can spread her work out in front of her and can focus without distractions. By contrast, being crammed in the cheapest seat next to a crying five-year-old is not conducive to bringing out her best thoughts and ideas.
You can even invest in VIP business travel for your most important travelers, investing in white-glove after-hours customer service so they can maximize their productivity.
3) Investing in employees is good for your relationship with clients
Happy, comfortable employees are more confident and less stressed. If your sales manager has a chance to stretch her legs on her flight to New York and then hit the gym for a light workout, then she’ll be more confident, more creative, and more productive in her meeting with your top client the next day. By contrast, if she spends the whole trip cramped and stressed out, then her in-person presence will suffer.
If you invest in small perks like hotel and seat upgrades, then your sales manager will more likely to be at her best when she’s meeting her client. Clients will appreciate the improved presence, as well as the fact that she’ll be better rested and better prepared for the meeting.
Final thoughts: investing in employee travel without breaking the bank
It’s possible to invest in your employees’ travel without blowing out your costs. This is where a great corporate travel booking agency comes into play. A business travel agency can negotiate on your behalf with airlines and hotels, saving you money without sacrificing your employees’ experience. For example, 87% of companies get better corporate hotel rates when they partner with a hotel consultant.
Even if a traveler-centric travel program does cost a little bit more, it should pay for itself in terms of improved employee loyalty and productivity.