Gen Y workers are by definition online, mobile and demanding. So, what’s the problem – a dynamic, flexible and tech savvy workforce has got to be a good thing, hasn’t it?
Not necessarily and especially if you’re a travel manager trying to put some rules around a bunch of people who want to be masters of their own destiny.
At an event, organised by Egencia, one travel manager highlighted the challenges in a nutshell.
Gen Y workers at this large insurance group want wifi in the cafeteria, not an unreasonable request, but, they return to their desks after lunch and are confronted with corporate travel systems and processes created with finance, HR and top-level management in mind.
Another business travel expert in the room questions whether TripAdvisor, which is accessible via Egencia, is relevant for his travellers even though Expedia-owned Egencia biases the results to make them more relevant to the segment.
And, there's bigger factors at play, such as having employees commenting about company issues on social networks or opening themselves or the company up to security risks by sharing data.
Signs of Change:
Toes are being dipped in water – for example, Hogg Robinson Group and HRS have policy compliant hotel review services.
There is also noise about businesses using Yammer and Chatter to communicate with employees on travel programme updates and general engagement although mass uptake has yet to be seen.
And, GetThere, Concur and others will tell us that the ‘consumerisation’ of business travel is underway, but is it happening fast enough or will corporate travel policies face increasing leakage?
Google’s travel policy, which is to let employees shop travel via any channel, but with spending caps in place has been held up as a potential future model. Trips have to be logged so the search giant can presumably use the data to negotiate with suppliers.
And Traveldoo, now owned by Egencia, says it will develop tools to reintegrate bookings made outside of traditional channels as travel booking becomes more tech less touch.
Johann Spafel, EMEA consulting director for Egencia says it is not seeing increased policy leakage but the situation, he says:
"is something we’re really cautious about and monitoring with a close eye."
The company talks of a three-year technology roadmap, $30 million to be invested this year alone and being the part of the wave that creates change but also admits the challenge of not being able to predict further ahead than two years.
We might be using Facebook, our kids approaching their teens are shunning it so these are not challenges that are going to go away.
Mobile, depending who you ask, will improve or worsen the current them versus us scenario with most travellers currently carrying a work phone and a personal device.
A survey of 100 businesses by American Express Global Business Travel reveals none have a travel policy to address the use of mobile applications.
But, observers agree companies are likely to move towards allowing employees to use their own devices as long as security concerns are addressed.
It doesn’t make sense to fight Gen Y so companies are doing some thinking as to how to balance the demands of Gen Y with corporate needs.
And, balance is key but these are 'now' as well as 'how' issues.
Interestingly, according to Egencia, the balance is currently tipped 80% versus 20% in favour of the stick approach with travel policy where travellers don’t get reimbursed for rogue spend.
But, that sort of thinking could hinder hiring the best people going forward and Gen Y has already been singled out as the highest retention risk for employers in a report last year.
And, by the way, even the Gen Y label could be seen as an insult and proof of the ‘them and us’ stalemate that travel managers are having to confront.
So, to give Egencia the last word:
"Merging the two worlds will be necessary to embrace the new generation otherwise they will always be looking for something on the internet and there will be leakage."
NB: Business man image via Shutterstock