In a previous post I spoke a little about the recent GBTA / American Express Business Traveler Sentiment Survey, and the impact of booking and expense policies on business travelers. This week, let’s look at how organizations can best bridge the generation gap when it comes to providing a better experience for their largest (and growing) audience - Millennials.
In 2015, Millennials and post-Millennials (also known as Generation Z / iGen) became the largest demographic group in the U.S. labor force, comprising 35% of the total, compared to 34% for Generation X and 29% (and shrinking) for Baby Boomers. So, while organizations need to ensure that they aren’t completely alienating their Gen X / Boomer employees, they need to understand what makes their largest constituents tick.
Mobility is key
One of the key trends to come out of the survey is that Millennials are – unsurprisingly – by far the most mobile-oriented and mobile-dependent group. They’re 13% more likely than all business travelers to use mobile devices to check itineraries daily while on the road, 22% more likely to use social media for work purposes and fully 25% more likely to check or submit expenses from their smartphone each day. So what does this mean for corporate travel managers?
Given Millennials’ / post-Millennials high level of attachment to mobile devices, a critical consideration for corporate travel professionals is to ensure all their technology partners can comprehensively deliver business travel services, such as travel booking and expense management, over a smartphone. This doesn’t just mean allowing travelers to view itineraries or take a photo of a receipt, but enabling them to easily create and submit expense reports without needing to use a desktop.
This ease of use needs to extend into more complex travel transactions, for example, the ability to manage and seamlessly expense bookings and itinerary changes without having to toggle between apps or browser windows is essential for reducing friction while on the road.
Another somewhat recent development in the business travel space is the ability for travelers to use mobile-optimized, non-traditional travel services such as Uber. Organizations should consider amending their travel policies to allow for ride- and room-sharing services, and at the minimum should offer the ability for travelers to simply and automatically send these receipts to their expense reports.
Aside from simply providing a richer mobile experience for Millennial business travelers, what other factors could organizations consider to make their business travel experience more suitable for this group?
Managing choice versus policy
One of the biggest complaints of the Millennial generation made by Boomers and Gen-Xers is a perceived sense of entitlement. This trend appears to translate to business travel, as Millennial travelers are more likely to say they're entitled toearn loyalty points on business trips, and also want more choice to customize their travel experience.
As we’ve discussed before, this can pose an issue for corporate travel managers, as there can often be a conflict between travelers’ personal preferences and company policy regarding airlines and hotel chains. In fact, studies have shown Millennial business travelers spend 13% more on airline tickets than other groups, and are also generally freer with their employers’ money when traveling.
In order to minimize the conflict between policy and preference, travel managers and finance departments could consider greater flexibility and options within their travel policy, such as slightly relaxing the allowable variance against lowest logical airfares, or allowing travelers to personally cover the difference in fares / adding on “bleisure” travel elements. Instead of having blanket policies, give travelers the freedom to add leisure elements in to their work trips, as long as they are self-funded.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Millennials are known to embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR) much more than previous generations, whether for the brands they choose as consumers, or their employers’ own culture and initiatives.
While business travel may not seem like the most obvious opportunity for employers to demonstrate their commitment to CSR, there several ways that this can be done, both in terms of providing a more environmentally-conscious traveler experience and enhancing the overall traveler experience. Examples of this could include:
- Selecting travel and lodging partners with a strong commitment to the environment, fair labor practices, etc
- Offering company carbon offsets for flights
- Choosing suppliers that have their own CSR programs
- Enhancing duty of care initiatives towards their travelers
While there will undoubtedly be corporate travel leaders who may roll their eyes at some of these initiatives, they can drive deeper traveler engagement across the entire organization, and their benefits can be felt across all demographics.
Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.