Today’s workforce is more multigenerational than ever before. Baby boomers sit alongside millennials and Gen Xers are paving the way for, gulp, Generation Z, and while stereotypes abound—baby boomers prefer face-to-face meetings, millennials are glued to their phones, Gen Xers only respond to email—the fact remains that offices have always contained a healthy mix of personalities.
So how do you succeed in getting an entire department, or even company, of diverse individuals to willfully, and perhaps even cheerfully, accept travel policy changes? The answer is less about responding to generational differences, than it is about knowing your audience. Take the time to get to know your travelers—their preferences, what motivates them and what modes of communication they prefer—and you might be happily surprised with the response come implementation time.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Kathy Christianson, VP of Organizational Effectiveness & Development at Travel Leaders Corporate, believes the best time to get to know travelers is before new policies are written. Start by listening carefully to your travelers’ needs, preferences and frustrations and take their concerns seriously. Not only will this help you develop policies that will enable them to work better and travel happier, but including travelers in the conversation makes them feel valued, respected and less threatened by impending change. “When travelers are asked for their input up front and they feel part of the process,” says Kathy “they are more apt to comply later.”
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR TRAVELERS
- Host a focus group or town hall meeting
- Invite your road warriors to lunch
- Implement a traveler satisfaction survey
- Keep open-door office hours for casual chats
- Check in with travelers on a regular basis
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
In addition to listening to your travelers, it’s also essential that they understand your goals as a travel manager. Remember, it’s natural for travelers to feel resentful of change if they don’t know why it’s happening. When talking to your travelers, Kathy suggests proactively answering the question “What does this mean to me?” and be honest about the pros and cons. “Yes, we are asking you to book in-network hotels, but the departmental savings will be significant, which will affect your bonus, and think of the hotel loyalty points you’ll accumulate for your next vacation.” By answering the “what’s in it for me?” question early on, travelers often become enthusiastic change agents.
It’s also important to remember that there is no single method of communication that works for everyone. To make sure you reach all your travelers, Kathy suggests developing clear and consistent messaging that is disseminated through a variety of channels. Emails, signage, small-group meetings and online tutorials are all excellent ways to reach a variety of learning styles.
HOW TO REACH A DIVERSE AUDIENCE
- Develop clear and consistent messaging
- Use a variety of communication methods
- Encourage senior leadership to be vocal about their support
- Empower managers to be effective team communicators
- Consider gamification, including contests, recognition and rewards
As a travel manager, you know better than anyone that travel policies are the backbone of your management program. But even the most well-considered policies aren’t worth a dime if your travelers don’t comply. There are no quick fixes, no one-size-fits-all solutions—developing meaningful relationships and multi-channeled communications take time. Make the effort, however, and you’ll build trust and rapport—both of which can have huge payoffs for the long-term success of your travel program.
Want to learn more about how to work with your most frequent travelers? Check out this article.
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