There seems to be no shortage of ways the millennial workforce is disrupting the status quo. The same goes for corporate travel, with millennial professionals turning to mobile and virtual services to book travel, manage expenses and ensure a smooth business trip.
New research from Australia and New Zealand found that this trend is particularly acute. CAPA released a report earlier this month to pinpoint exactly how millennials are disrupting corporate T&E and concluded that this workforce continues to push the industry into new territory.
According to CAPA, millennials now make up a quarter of the Australian and New Zealand workforces. In Sydney, 38 percent of professionals surveyed said millennials make up nearly a third of their company’s staff. These figures remain smaller than some other markets, like that of the U.S., in which millennials are now the largest demographic in the workforce, researchers noted. But the growth, CAPA said, is “unstoppable” and means companies and their T&E solutions providers need to keep pace with change.
Among those changes promoted by millennial workers is the rise in so-called “bleisure” travel — a mix of business and leisure. CAPA researchers found that more than three-quarters of those surveyed now permit bleisure travel among traveling employees as millennial professionals look for work/life balance and add a leisure component on top of a business trip.
For the majority of these business trips, less than 10 percent of the trip includes a leisure component. Even so, mixing business and leisure while traveling may have a significant impact, researchers said. Most notably, companies often lack clear policy pertaining to bleisure trips, which may lead to potential liabilities for employers.
Spend management can also get tangled, CAPA explained. With employees mixing personal and business spend on a bleisure trip, it can be difficult to identify which expenses made while on a trip are the responsibility of the company and which are the responsibility of the worker.
According to reports, researchers expect this trend of “bleisure” trips to continue to rise in Australia and New Zealand, meaning businesses will face increased pressure to revise policies surrounding business travel, duty of care and expensing.
It comes as no surprise that millennials are largely behind the recent spike in use of on-demand economy services while on business trips. Data from an array of sources has already identified increases in the use of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb among business travelers, and CAPA’s research found no difference in the Australian and New Zealand markets.
According to researchers, 36 percent of businesses surveyed said they allow workers to use sharing economy services while on a business trip. Roughly the same portion said they don’t allow those services, while the remaining third said they have no policy around such services.
Corporates must sort out a few issues in this arena as well, noted CAPA. For businesses that don’t allow the use of such services or for those with no policy about it, companies need to ensure that their agreements with approved travel vendors — like hotels, which have businesses pledge to use a certain number of room nights at a pre-agreed price — do not fall by the wayside.
Duty of care, too, can be compromised for travelers using these services when company policy has not addressed them.
While the changing demographics of the workforce in Australia and New Zealand certainly offer an opportunity for T&E services and technologies to grab new market share, CAPA noted that, first and foremost, companies need to ensure that business travelers are safe while using these emerging solutions.
“The changing demographics of the workplace are combining with the rise of mobile technology and the growth of the sharing economy to add complexity to travel management,” CAPA wrote in its report summary. “Travel managers need to balance the needs of their organization with the wellbeing of their travelers, and increasingly, this involves embracing new supply options, booking methods and communication tools.”
“However,” researchers continued, “the primary responsibility of the travel manager is ensuring the safety of all traveling staff, and it is vital that policies and procedures are adapted to address changes and the new risks they bring.”