The Clash’s lead guitarist Mick Jones probably didn’t have post-viral, sustainability-conscious business travel in mind when he wrote the four-chord classic. Should I stay or should I go? almost four decades ago. Nonetheless, establishing a few principles to help employees answer the question posed in the song’s title has arguably become the dominant pursuit of managing travel the 2021 way.
Over the past two years, Stay has firmly established itself in the perpetual Stay / Go standoff. The growing awareness of the environmental cost was already combining with the financial cost as a travel inhibitor, and then came Covid.
As the virus continues to make every trip more dangerous and complicated than before the pandemic, guidance for travelers is essential, Caroline Strachan, managing partner of consulting firm Festive Road, told the pre-event conference last month. of Business Travel Show Europe.
“In the absence of rules, people will invent their own,” Strachan warned. âYou have to create a framework. But don’t turn it into a 20 page checklist to feel better as a travel manager.
Yet the underlying argument of Go persists, otherwise companies would never invest, in some cases, nine-figure sums per year in their employees traveling the world.
What’s the right balance? The next day at the show itself, Richard Eades, Global Head of BP’s Travel & Meetings Category, took part in a panel discussion on whether travel management turns into interaction management. Eades revealed that his team are working on tools to help travelers determine “should this activity be travel, should it be hybrid, or should it be virtual?” This is the process that we are creating right now so that people can make informed decisions and build sustainability into the realm of transactions instead of reporting after the meeting.
In the same session, Scott Gillespie, managing director of consultancy tClara, outlined six principles to help companies decide whether travel is justifiable:
â¢ Travel must generate more value than it costs.
â¢ Travel does not create value; meetings do. Focus on making the meeting a success first.
â¢ Success, passenger well-being and sustainability must come first over costs and savings.
â¢ Justifiable travel is best done with travelers and suppliers committed to improving the sustainability of travel.
â¢ Travel budgets are best used for higher value trips. So rethink travel plans and budgets around this premise.
â¢ Senior management must learn to recognize the signs of too much or too much travel.
Gillespie was keen to stress that while his principles may inform Stay / Go decision making, no one can “assess the expected value of the trip.” It’s a long walk under a scorching sun, âhe said. âIt can’t be done – it’s a mad rush. It always comes down to management judgment.
âWhat we need,â he continued, âis a more rigorous and objective approach to weighing the obvious inputs into making this decision: why are we traveling? Have we ever met these people? What is the opportunity to create value? These are the inputs that managers will want to consider before making that decision. ”
Gillespie made a second verbal remark on another assumption sometimes made about business travel: that a wide range of interactions, namely internal meetings, does not need to take place face to face and that traveling to meet colleagues is therefore often unjustifiable.
Travel for internal purposes clearly has value and will often outweigh trivial travel where there is very little income opportunity.
âIt’s an incredibly stupid premise to believe that only customer travel should be justified against internal travel,â Gillespie said. âIf you believe it, your organization absolutely has to sell all of its office space. The only reason we have office space is because we think it’s helpful for people to work closely together. It’s like saying âwe can’t justify a trip designed to create innovation or foster leadership, confidence, teamwork or responsibilityâ. This is more than stupid.
âI really hope that travel managers can better advocate for internal travel, as this clearly has value and will often outweigh the insignificant travel to [a customer] where there are very few income opportunities.
Conversely, Institute of Travel Management chief executive Scott Davies believes that the unwanted âzero travelâ experience imposed by the pandemic has established that some essential business interactions cannot be achieved virtually. They are: networking and relationship building; any type of sale or development where it is necessary to understand people and their challenges; the launch of new internal strategies; and strengthening of the corporate culture.
It is at this point that Go’s arm begins to lift off the table and returns to some sort of balance with Stay. Louise Kilgannon, a consultant at Festive Road, recommends that companies consider how ânot traveling for 18 months affected the results. If you can’t travel, what are the business impacts? It is very important to have a dialogue with the stakeholders of the company. What you might find is that you can reduce travel in some areas, but need to increase travel in others.
It was to this end that at the beginning of the year, Festive Road launched its determined travel model. The model is a framework for travel managers to develop conversations with senior management and budget officials Gillespie advocates for making balanced judgments about travel or otherwise.
âYou won’t get a magic bullet: ‘this is what we get if we go down,â says Kilganon. “But you can go to management to comment on what interactions are reasonable travel use and which can be done by Zoom.”
The good news for travel managers is that, whether referred to as justifiable or motivated travel, initiating this type of dialogue can potentially increase their value even if their business is traveling less than before the pandemic. âYou position yourself as a strategic advisor able to engage with internal stakeholders,â says Kilganon.
Gillespie made the exact same point at BTS Europe. âThis is largely a great opportunity for travel managers to engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations with senior management,â he said.
Maybe a bright but silly 40-year-old punk anthem is smarter than it first appears.
Next time: The role of travel in overhauling workplace collaboration