SET YOUR ORGANIZATION UP FOR SUCCESS BY INVESTING IN BUSINESS TRAVEL
The post-pandemic era has brought new challenges: adapting to distributed work, employee burnout, tight labor markets for attracting and retaining talent, and the ongoing volatility within national and global travel networks. However, with challenges come opportunities.
By embracing change, financial managers can emerge as cultural leaders. They can help reframe how their company views travel: no longer as a commodity but instead as an investment in creating everyday resilience and meaningful connections that future-proof “how we work” in ways that align with culture’s changing course.
Business travel is the new center for company culture
Organizations need to adapt to more flexible work practices that align with increased remote and hybrid working. A new survey of Canadian employees and decision makers found that the workforce is currently fairly evenly split between roughly one-third working in a hybrid model, one-third working remotely, and one-third working in the office.
In a world where the office is no longer the main driver of employee experience, business travel can be the ideal solution for collaborating, building relationships, fostering company values, and achieving overall corporate objectives. Travel is arguably one of the only touchpoints to cultivate a corporate experience within dispersed remote workforces. Rather than just being seen as the logistical function of an employee getting from A to B for work, it is an opportunity to invest in an experience that aligns with a company’s values and culture from start to finish.
From transactional to transformational: The elevated role of business travel
For many companies, business travel is no longer just about business travel as a siloed function – or even travel and meetings. It’s more about mobility, interaction and how people connect. Remote and hybrid work habits are amplifying the ability of travel programs to unite distributed workforces, attract new talent and differentiate within the field. As travel becomes a more meaningful touchpoint for in-person collaboration and connecting people to company culture, its role is expanding to include:
- How new hires and prospects experience company culture
- How teams or whole companies align, bond and collaborate
- How employees sustain and build client relationships
- How companies showcase their priorities and values to all internal- and external-facing audiences
Keeping your workforce engaged
With many employees continuing to work remotely, organizations are challenged to keep their teams engaged and productive. Internal meetings, particularly in-person internal meetings, continue to be a higher priority than they were pre-pandemic, as organizations see the value of bringing their employees together face to face as a way to improve productivity, create shared culture, and reduce turnover.
We see this in the growth of internal meetings reported by our 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, which found that internal and small meetings have already exceeded 2019 levels in North America. And it’s not just large organizations that are increasing their in-person internal meetings: small and medium enterprises (SME) are also using face to face meetings to strengthen their workforce and improve culture.
In-person meeting boosts teams’ effectiveness in many situations and collaboration, innovation, acculturation and dedication can’t be achieved or sustained without face-to-face interaction. Organizations have realized the value of bringing together scattered coworkers for experiential meetings and team bonding, and are viewing these as worthy expenses: nearly two-thirds of respondents surveyed for our 2023 Meetings & Events Forecast said their organization’s meeting spend is increasing for 2023.
Winning the war for talent
Uniting a remote or hybrid workforce is also critical for employee retention and recruitment. Historically, there hasn’t been a lot of attention paid to the experience of a remote employee versus an in-office employee. Pre-pandemic, remote employees were often tenured, long-term members of a company or hired for specific subject matter expertise or experience. The onboarding and retention piece for full time remote workers wasn’t as front and center as it is now, especially for a more junior workforce that is now virtual and looking for connection and purpose in their work.
Many new hires entered the workforce during the pandemic and have never experienced a fully in-office work model and the relationships, learning and skill development that stems from that. This is new territory and there is tremendous value and opportunity for business travel to be elevated into a function that can support HR strategies around onboarding, productivity and motivation, employee development, and attracting and retaining talent.
With remote and hybrid work models seemingly here to stay, business travel can be a potent tool for organizations to invest in. The strategic use of travel can give your employees the autonomy they crave while fostering a winning culture and enhancing recruitment, productivity, employee experience and well-being. As financial managers look to make smart investments in policies to shape a bright future for their organization, travel increasingly has a place at the core of these strategies.
 SOURCE: Staples Professional and Angus Reid Group, October 2022. The Future of Work.
 Harvard Business Review, 2021. When Do We Really Need Face-to-Face Interactions?
|Patrick Doyle, Vice President & General Manager, American Express Global Business Travel, Canada
Patrick Doyle is Vice President and General Manager for Canada at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT). Patrick oversees the strategic account management, traveller care, and loyalty businesses in Canada to support their reward fulfillment programs.
His strategic vision and leadership continues to position GBT as one of Canada’s leading travel management companies servicing 500+ client relationships across global, multinational and SME segments encompassing industry verticals from technology to government, finance and manufacturing.