Strategic HR

Preparing a New Generation for Safe and Productive Business Travel

Millennials are taking the corporate world by storm. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, they will constitute one third of the labor force by 2024, meaning that more and more younger employees will be travelling for business.travel

While Millennials are traveling for pleasure more than previous generations, some may not yet be accustomed to business travel as they are in the early stages of their careers. This article outlines what employers should consider addressing with their younger employees ahead of their business travels, as well as the risks associated with trends such as excessive smartphone usage, ‘bleisure travel,’ and steps Human Resource (HR) executives can take to help mitigate these risks.

Pretravel: What Your Millennial Employees Need to Know

Since Millennials are often less experienced with business trips, it is HR’s responsibility to set expectations prior to departure. One of the most important responsibilities of an HR department is to make sure employees understand travel emergency processes and protocols.  This could include creating a document that outlines how employees can reach out for help during any type of emergency situation, such as contact information for local officials and nearby medical centers, and a phone tree for after-hours emergency contacts at your organization.

When traveling internationally, overcoming language barriers can be one of the biggest challenges for travelers of any age. While apps such as Google Translate can be helpful, HR professionals should encourage travelers to study up on the local language by compiling a list of commonly used words and phrases, such as such as “please,” “thank you,” and “help me.” Aside from making a great first impression, learning some basic phrases can be helpful when navigating more complex situations such as getting to a new location or finding help during an emergency.

In addition to the language, HR professionals should encourage employees to learn about their destination’s cultural norms, values, and customs. This can include dress codes, attitudes toward women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, hand gestures, public displays of affection, views on punctuality, and more. Gently remind travelers that they’re accountable for their behaviors whether they’re on or off the clock—and “misbehaving” could not only put their health and safety at risk, but could also jeopardize your company’s reputation.

Protecting This Tech Savvy Generation of Employees

It’s no secret that this generation of business travelers is the most hyper-connected yet, and rightfully so, as they grew up with this type of technology in the palms of their hands. While smartphones do make tasks like communication and navigating the area easier, they also present some safety challenges.

With apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, it only takes a click to broadcast one’s location. Although it may be a habit for Millennials to check-in using Facebook or post their locations via Instagram, it also advertises their whereabouts to new and foreign acquaintances—which in some instances could compromise their safety.

Sharing economy services, including Airbnb and Uber, are also wildly popular among Millennials. While these apps make navigation easier, they also present some risks especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Though rare, unsettling issues like harassment and assault do exist and have been widely reported on, but there are also more common issues like disappearing reservations and part‐time drivers who are more likely to get lost. That being said, organizations should prepare rules and guidelines around the use of these services and thoroughly communicate them to traveling employees before their departure.

Additionally, smartphones have allowed business travelers the freedom to work from virtually anywhere. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it has also illustrated a need for more accountability, particularly when it comes to data security. Whether a device is lost or stolen, or an employee inadvertently accesses sensitive data on public networks, this can jeopardize your company’s intellectual property.

In certain areas of the world, telephone and Wi-Fi usage may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched without consent or knowledge. It’s necessary to not only address the role that employees have in keeping your organization’s data safe, but also to educate them on how to do so.

The Rising Trend of ‘Bleisure’ Among Millennials

Bleisure, the art of extending a business trip into a vacation, is a popular trend in today’s modern workforce, and younger travelers are no exception. According to a Bleisure Report, 94% of the Millennials said they would be taking a bleisure trip in the next 5 years. What does this mean for your organization? Well, if you’re trying to attract and retain Millennials, it could be worth not only embracing bleisure in your current travel policy, but also setting clear guidelines around it.

For example, make a clear distinction between what is considered personal time versus business time during a trip, outlining exactly when the business portion ends. This distinction can also help decipher what is a personal expense versus a business expense. The policy should also include information about travel companions, and who is financially and legally responsible for them if they get sick or injured.

It’s also important to set appropriate boundaries. While parameters and contingencies will vary by organization, to help mitigate the level of risk, many employers choose to limit the number of days an employee can take for leisure purposes and/or stipulate the traveler’s vacation plans cannot take them to a different destination. If traveling to destinations deemed as high-risk, some organizations may choose to discourage the individual from extending the trip for leisure purposes altogether.

Giving Millennials the ability to travel for business is not only one way to attract them to your organization, but also allows them more growth, personally and professionally. Taking the time to educate and prepare them for what’s ahead not only helps you fulfill your duty of care, but allows for a much safer and seamless business travel experience for your employees.

As On Call International‘s President, Tom Davidson leads the company’s vision of delivering the highest quality travel risk management and assistance services for organizations and their travelers. Tom maintains a relentless focus on developing customized programs to meet our client’s unique needs.Prior to becoming On Call’s President, Tom spent five years as the company’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. In this role, he focused on expanding business development and account management operations while preserving and increasing On Call’s high level of customer satisfaction and service delivery. Tom was also responsible for leading the company’s strategic initiatives and priorities with a focus on innovation, new technologies and expanding lines of business.

Over the last ten years, Tom has held various roles in the travel risk management and assistance industry. Previously he served as Manager of Account Management at International SOS Assistance Inc., where he oversaw client communications before, during and after crises in India, Haiti, Chile, Egypt, Libya, Japan and New Zealand. He also acted as the logistics lead for operations and evacuee safety following extraction from Haiti and was responsible for oversight and management of medical, security, aviation, and logistics team members based in Santo Domingo.

Tom’s other past positions include Manager of the Recruitment Advertising Department at Philadelphia Media Holdings and Inside Sales Manager and Regional Operations Manager for EchoStar Satellite L.L.C. Tom holds a BA in Mass Communications from York College of Pennsylvania.