How business travel can support a diverse workforce
Fast-growing businesses are accustomed to shaking up the status quo. Often comprised of diverse teams, they’re in a unique position to understand the needs of a diverse customer base. Having the right people is invaluable – but so is being in the right place at the right time. A smart business travel programme is vital to get the right people where they need to be. Air travel and the Internet have helped make the world a much smaller place – as a result, companies and their customers have become far more diverse.
Business travel has thrived and helped accelerate the growth of new global markets. India has a projected growth rate of 7.3 in 2018-19 for example, compared to a growth rate of 2.9 percent for the US during the same period. Many fast-growing businesses are capitalising on emerging markets and beyond, hoping to move into new regions as their businesses grow and expand. For example, imagine you’re a Los Angeles-based T-shirt designer who distributes online and has a bricks-and-mortar shop. You notice that the number of orders coming from Europe has consistently increased and that opening a shop in Paris is a good expansion opportunity. This means you’ll need to travel to identify and secure the right site and hire local staff. Then, when sales begin to boom, you decide it would be more cost-effective to produce the T-shirts in the EU, rather than shipping from the US.
The increase in demand has led to a new office, new staff and sourcing at least one new supplier. Implementing and managing this growth means taking a hard look at business travel solutions. And for the fastest-growing small businesses, considering how to scale in line with growth requires a travel management company (TMC) that meets your unique needs.
Understand your traveller's destination
Your travellers may need to visit places where the company hasn’t done business before. Your TMC can make this easier for travellers by providing insights into their destination. Useful tips, such as places to eat, where to stay and information on the local culture give travellers ultimate control over their trip with flexible self-service tools. Travel managers can also use these tools to improve traveller experience and control costs.
For example, if three travellers land at the same airport close to the same time, they could receive a message suggesting that they share a taxi to the hotel where they’re staying. Another thing to keep in mind is that cultural norms shift from country to country, and often from region to region. It’s important to have a travel policy that recognises the nuances of this for each traveller.
For example, a travel programme should let travellers know, in advance, about the local laws and customs of their destination. Several countries have stringent laws when it comes to same-sex relationships. Other regions may have hardline rules based around how men and women should act in public places. And others could have a free and open culture that may seem shocking to some travellers. Any of this can impact your business travellers, from being unsure how to conduct business to concerns about how to behave when they’re off work.
There’s a great opportunity to create online forums to share travel experiences. Imagine you have one employee heading to Perth, Australia, for the first time and another who grew up there. The Perth native would be a great source of information to their colleague and the information the two share can be saved on the forum for future trips. If travel managers can help travellers navigate through these scenarios and add guidance to their policy, they’ll find it benefits travellers and the business.
Support your travellers’ needs
Diverse workforces are key to successful companies of the future. As Ernst & Young reported, “the innovation diversity brings will help us build our competitive advantage, become market leaders and deliver better client solutions”. Fast-growing companies need to address individual needs in their travel programme. Understanding this is important to promoting diversity.
A pregnant executive on a short trip has different needs from someone on an extended trip across the globe. Can your travel policy support this? A strong travel policy also needs to accommodate travellers who have unique needs. This can range from hearing- and sight-impaired employees to those who need a wheelchair to be mobile or have specific dietary and medical needs.
Juggling these different travel needs isn’t hard with the right travel policy in place. Understanding the full scope of every traveller's needs – from those who need to fly direct to those who need certain accommodations – should be folded into your travel policy and regularly updated.
Taking the lead in addressing employees’ various needs in your travel policy will benefit your bottom line. It also will pay off with your company’s most important asset – its people. If you get your policy right, your travellers will be happy to stay in compliance and take advantage of your booking tool, knowing their well-being is important to the company. This also ensures that they’re booking with preferred rates and suppliers and by tracking travellers’ bookings, you’re able to build comprehensive data reports to inform future decisions around spend, policy, traveller satisfaction, and more.
A successful travel policy brings in everyone from HR to IT because multiple teams need to be involved. For example, HR may be interested in what safety measures are in place for employees travelling to new areas; IT may be more interested in whether there’s a flexible tool that fits neatly into the company’s tech stack. Understanding how to manage your business’ growth while aligning with the needs of an expanding workforce is key. It’s important to keep your bottom line in sight, but it's equally important to understand the unique needs of your travellers because their success is your success.
Want to learn how growth-hackers manage diversity on the road? Read our white paper to find out how fast-growing businesses are tackling travel in their organisations.
 “India’s economy is set to grow faster than China’s this year,” World Economic Forum, October 12, 2018, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/indias-economy-is-set-to-grow-faster-than-chinas-this-year.
 “Our approach to diversity and inclusiveness,” Ernst & Young, 2015.