The dictionary refers to millennials as the group of people born between 1981 and the late 90s. But the unofficial definition probably sounds something like: a group of people who prefer working on beanbags than in cubicles, and who see wifi as a fundamental human right. Throw in buzzwords like “instant gratification” and “freedom of choice” and voila! Millennial.
Compared to generation X, this species has very different priorities when looking for a job. For example, at least 75 per cent of them perceive work trips to be a perk, or even as a status symbol. Another 39 per cent find the lack of travel opportunities to be a deal breaker that would make them reject a job offer.
This should come as no surprise, especially since millennials are a bunch who can’t be cooped up in a 9-5 cubicle farm. Plus, with their tech-savviness and worldliness, they can add a great deal of value to work trips. And the key to harnessing their potential as business travellers? A conducive travel program that plays to their strengths.
A new and improved travel program for millennials
While Gen X is contented with making all-inclusive arrangements through travel agencies, you would be hard pressed to find a millennial onboard a sightseeing coach or following a yellow flag on a guided tour.
Even though prestige is in the picture, millennials aren’t all about swanky business class seats or five-star hotels (though that is admittedly premium content for the ‘gram). Instead, when it comes to business trips, they rely on social media for intel and tech for convenience. They seek unique experiences off the beaten track, and make a mix of business and leisure—also called ‘bleisure’—the new work-life balance while on assignment.
As a company’s organisational culture adapts to millennials, so must its policies. With travel opportunities playing a huge role in employee motivation and talent retention, it’s about time to give your travel program an update.
If your staff has to make bookings through a single travel agency or within restrictions like an overly complicated procedure, it may be a sign that your travel program is more Gen X than millennial-skewed.
Numerous surveys show that corporate processes of booking travel take 30 minutes to more than an hour. This duration is unheard of for a group of people who are used to looking up the cheapest flights in a matter of seconds on a mobile app and finding hotels in the CBD with a few clicks on an interactive map.
Maybe your company’s long booking process has been set in stone from the very beginning, or perhaps it’s a result of longstanding working relationships between the company and external vendors. But, either way, if your employees have outgrown it, it’s already obsolete.
Apart from efficiency, more flexibility also means greater ownership of the business trip for the employee and more economical choices for the company. You can surely trust a millennial to suss out the most value-for-money deals. They are the leading authority on short trips and weekend getaways, remember?
Back in the day when hotels were the default option, frequent business travellers would clock in enough nights at the same property to become valued members of a loyalty program. However, 21 per cent of millennials do not subscribe to these schemes, a statistic correctly explained by the popularity of the sharing economy.
Hotel chains have taken a backseat with the advent of platforms like Airbnb, compounded with the millennials’ appetite for novel places and experiences. In the same way, they have easily done away with shuttles and transfers, with shared car services like Grab offering hassle-free transportation at their fingertips.
However, giving millennials free rein to choose has implications, too. The nature of these sharing economies means safety and security may be less guaranteed than at hotel chains, making it more difficult to practice your duty of care as an employer. This is why companies are increasingly using travel management platforms, which provide them oversight into travel bookings and make it easier to keep track of travellers’ safety. Cities around the world are also tightening regulations on the sharing economy to improve safety.
When has a millennial called up an airline to book a flight? Never. After all, this is a generation that can hardly recall a time before the Internet. But even though you now make all your flight bookings online, you may still be guilty of obsolete practices that young employees have already outgrown.
A classic example of a prehistoric but persistent practice is that of keeping paper invoices for claims. It’s simply inconvenient that your employee, a business professional of the 21st century, carries around a stack of restaurant receipts and a MacBook in the same briefcase. If this sounds familiar, it’s about time you automate expense management to free up your employees’ time, not to mention improve the accuracy of expense reports.
On top of letting millennials book trips with modern travel management tools and eradicating manual expense reporting, a good travel program should also treat connectivity as a given. This means in-flight and hotel wifi, and sufficient budget set aside for unlimited on-the-go internet in the form of a local SIM card or portable router.
Bleisure ranks pretty high on the millennial’s business travel wish list. According to McKinsey, Asian business travellers—a large chunk of whom are millennials—are almost twice as likely as their European peers to book a business trip that includes a weekend.
While there’s no hard and fast rule for acceding to bleisure requests, young companies—the same folks who embrace work-from-home arrangements—are far more likely to approach it from a work-life balance perspective. Letting employees ride on a work trip for some well-deserved downtime goes a long way to improve their morale and satisfaction.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that your travel program should clearly communicate your bleisure policy.
A new generation of business travellers
By the end of next year, millennials will make up more than half of the workforce worldwide, and contribute significantly to business travel spending. For the flak they sometimes get for being “entitled” and “idealistic”, millennials are also some of the most driven and creative individuals of our time, and it is up to a company to harness their merits.
Your corporate travel program will help you accomplish this. Make it an outstanding one, and it could very well incentivise these minds to stick around and help your business stay relevant.