Travel policies can directly affect a company’s ability to recruit and retain talented employees. When companies offer more ways to work outside the office, they can positively impact employee satisfaction and productivity. Here are a few ways you can adapt your company’s travel policy to meet your employees’ needs:
1. Make sure your company’s travel policies reflect employee values
“If you’re in an industry where the competition for talent is high, and retention is important, review your travel policy to see if you are sufficiently focused on traveler satisfaction,” said Jeanne Liu, the vice president of research at the Global Business Travel Association.
By 2020, millennials will make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce. And according to Erica Arnold, a vice president at HVS Executive Search, as millennials advance to executive positions, their personal and professional values will increasingly be represented in their companies’ travel policies. Companies can show that they care about keeping employees happy in a variety of ways (i.e., giving employees personal time on long work trips to recuperate from travel.)
2. Listen to what your employees want
Whether your employees are taking a short trip or trying out a new team-building experience, ask how it went and record the answers. To gauge how much travel affects productivity, employee happiness, and job satisfaction, create a simple survey — to either ask in person or digitally, using an anonymous method like Google forms.
“It’s important hearing from employees about what makes them comfortable so they can have a productive trip,” said Brandon Gries, travel coordinator for Hudl. “I’m a frequent traveler myself, but the way I do things isn’t the same as a lot of our employees.” Gries noted that the quality of employees trips often has direct consequences on their work.
3. Give extra consideration to those who travel often
“If a job requires 30 to 40 percent travel, a lot of people will say, ‘I can’t do that,’” explains Arnold. “If there is something a company can do to make road warriors more comfortable, that will help them attract and retain talent.” For employees with families, especially, offering more flexible ways to travel can affect employee satisfaction — and an employee’s desire to stay with, or leave, their company.
“Upper management pays attention to road warrior morale,” said Al Mazzola, director of global finance and travel services at Sykes. “We know, especially for our long-haul trips to places like Australia and the Philippines, that we have to take into consideration productivity and maybe compromise on some things.”
For work trips that are seven to 10 days long, for example, Sykes allows employees to arrive a day early — to recuperate from a flight or have time explore a city. “We know when you are gone that long from your home, your family, that having some downtime will relieve some of the homesickness and prepare you for the work ahead,” Mazzola said.
4. Help employees feel at home
“Travelers do not like being cooped up in one or two rooms, especially when it is a long-term engagement — four days or more,” said Mazzola. As he’s explored how to keep employees happy at work, he’s found that the number one thing employees at his company want on long work trips is more space to spread out. “The second thing they want is flexibility. Having a full kitchen lets a traveler shop at the local grocery store for meals, and then flop down on the couch after a long day — to turn on the TV and have a relaxing dinner.”
As Mazzola said, “Not dining out three times a day on the road means real cost savings for us,” so it’s a win-win for both employees and their employer.
5. Create collaborative environments outside the office
Small companies like Payable have found that when traveling for conferences, staying together in a home on Airbnb has yielded a drastically different experience than staying in a hotel.
“Instead of at the end of the night where we are all in separate rooms, we’re all in this same place as a family,” said Tad Milbourn, Payable’s former CEO and founder. “And that leads to a different sort of collaboration and bonding that’s more productive for the company, and more productive for our relationships as colleagues.”
Travel managers can also look to Airbnb for group-friendly experiences, like cooking classes and outdoor activities, that will bring teams together.