Paul Casement, Director of Sales and Account Management at Travel Management Company Portman/Clarity
I can safely say that travelling for work is a chore rather than a perk and that’s a fundamental reality. I would also stress that neither is work travel glamorous and anyone who’s ever visited the world’s most celebrated cities to only see the insides of an exhibition centre or conference hall will agree with me.
However, any business worth its salt that requires members of staff to travel for work, needs to provide value added experiences that assist in forming a well-balanced corporate travel policy. This will not only motivate team members, but will also result in them being more enthusiastic and productive.
To this end, my first recommendation would be to ensure businesses initiate travellers in the customs of the country they’re visiting, subsequently equipping them with the knowledge to understand and successfully do business there.
For example, we have shared insight on customs with our staff that protects them from social gaffs and puts them in the best position to ensure the trip is a commercial and personal success. Insights include communicating that Finnish tend to dislike small talk, the Japanese thrive on it as a way of sealing the final deal and the Europeans are very happy - unlike their British counterparts - for you to check smartphones and tablets during meetings.
Secondly, with many hours spent travelling comes the issue of comfort, employers should make every effort to book good quality hotels and make travel arrangements at sociable times so workers can return to their families both well rested and in a good mood.
This leads us onto work/life balance, which should be given equal weighting where possible. A great compromise is to offer travel free weeks so that workers can rest easy in the knowledge that they’ll be based at home for an agreed and fixed period of time.
Other incentives that work well include remuneration and time in lieu, because regardless of what bosses might say, it’s a renowned truth that frequent travellers spend more time away from their families than their stay at home counterparts.
Finally, providing a platform for staff to give formal reviews and feedback will not only make them feel valued, but will allow businesses to make improvements and changes to their travel policies both if necessary and as and when any unforeseen issues arise.
Although all of the above is essential for ensuring that employees have value added experiences when travelling, there are some points that businesses need to either give extra thought to, or stand firm on.
Air miles can be the bane of a company’s life as employees who benefit from them will want access to the associated loyalty programmes and what they amass in return. This will dictate flight and hotel decisions and they might not always be the most cost-effective. Some employees may choose to book flights and accommodation outside of company policy to claim air miles. My advice is that unless the loyalty scheme benefits the business, it should be company policy not to use them.
Rail travel is also interesting because if a train is delayed by 30 minutes, you’re entitled to a refund. The question then arises as to whether the refund should go to the company or the employee who has been inconvenienced. To keep up morale, I would personally give the refund to the employee.
Inviting family to come on a work trip is heavily regulated although it’s common to tag a holiday onto business travel. As a business this is a grey area because you then have duty of care and are responsible for the family while they’re away on your time. I’d say avoid this situation unless the circumstances are exceptional.
Once you have these value added measures in place, you’ll be able to cultivate a workforce of happy and enlightened travellers that carry out their business both sensitively and strategically.