Most executives spend time at the end of the calendar year or a fiscal year poring over numbers and considering what investments are paying off — and which ones aren’t.
Business travel is a $1.2 trillion sector worldwide. That’s a lot of money to spend on getting your team members from one place to another. And you now have access to tons of data that can help you evaluate whether that money is well spent. What if you could do more than just reduce travel spend? What if you could actually make business travel profitable?
But the real challenge in our data-filled business world is harnessing information to make meaningful conclusions. To help you harness your data in a helpful way, here are some ideas for analyzing travel-related information.
3 Key Factors for Your Consideration
It’s tempting to look at the business travel line item and to want the number to be lower. But you most likely already have a team that’s getting that number as low as possible. Most travel managers are always scouring travel plans and itineraries for ways to save. Cost control is important, though it’s not necessarily an important consideration at the executive level.
So, what should you be focused on instead? Focus instead on the human impact of business travel, the operational context of business travel and the effect of business travel on revenue. Focus on making business travel profitable.
Data related to these three key factors is available, if you know where to look and what to look for.
Data on Human Impact
This is such an overlooked aspect of business travel. Your team members are human beings, which is obvious, but we so often fail to consider the human impact of spending days or weeks away from the office and away from home while traveling for business.
Where can you find data on the human impact of business travel? Start with HR. Your HR department should have information on how often certain team members are traveling. This information can then be compared to data on sick leave, productivity and even turnover.
If this information shows a strong relationship between frequency of business travel and increased sick time, decreased productivity or increased turnover, your company has just discovered a helpful insight that deserves action.
Data on Operational Context
The best way to save money on business travel is to avoid unnecessary trips. Your team members may travel to present at a conference, to collaborate with a remote team or client, or to close an important deal. Each of these is a valid reason for business travel.
But start with this question: Why is this person traveling? Train your managers to ask this question before anyone hits the road, and you may find more unnecessary trips are eliminated, which in turn means less human impact and greater productivity.
Corporate travel is still an essential part of running a business. But, given how connected we are today and how many communication tools we have at our disposal, we should be able to identify trips that were once necessary but that can now be accommodated via phone call or video conferencing.
If your company can conduct a quarterly or yearly lookback at business travel, it can identify that, in hindsight, could have been avoided. The cost of these trips in tandem with HR and corporate finance data should provide helpful information for making future decisions about travel.
Data on Revenue Streams
This is one area where a cost-control focus can work against you. Consider the following scenario:
You send a team member overseas on assignment. To save on the cost, this team member flies economy. There’s little room to maneuver, and it’s difficult to get rest. Your team member gets little to nothing accomplished on the flight, and he or she arrives jetlagged and exhausted.
But, if that team member were allowed to spend just a little bit more to get a business class seat, there would have been far more room to maneuver and to get work done. And it also would have been a much more comfortable environment for getting rest on the way. Your team member would have gotten a great deal accomplished on the flight, and he or she would have arrived feeling as fresh and energetic as possible. Also, as an alternative to paying for a higher class of service, a corporate travel agency can negotiate status upgrades — which can save money while delivering the same benefit.
That’s why it’s important to focus on more than just cost control. Instead, focus on data related to productivity lost or gained during travel time.
Is your company tracking cost per hour of travel? The average business trip is 7 hours. HR can help convert that figure into salary, and you can begin to estimate what it costs for your team members to sit on a plane. If that time can be spent productively, the trip begins to pay for itself.
The No. 1 Challenge in Capturing Data
The greatest challenge in capturing the data needed for business travel analysis is culture. Corporate employees adapt to the way things have always been done, which makes it difficult to change behavior. And, secondly, most companies are highly siloed. That is, HR, finance and other relevant departments rarely communicate and share data in a way that would promote effective business travel analysis.
That’s why a data-focused approach to business travel must start at the executive level. Without executive buy-in, it’s going to be hard to shift cultures, change behaviors and capture the data needed for proper analysis.
But the payoff is huge. Just imagine a world in which you can say with relative certainty that your company’s business travel is a true revenue generator.
Make Sure Your Company is Capturing the Right Data
Capturing and using data for business travel decisions is just common sense. At JTB Business Travel, commons sense is driving force behind everything we do for our corporate clients.
As a comprehensive business travel agency, we provide executives and travel managers with business intelligence, cost avoidance ideas, advanced travel technologies and much more. The result is that your return on investment in business travel skyrockets, and your team members are able to enjoy the best possible travel experiences.
Contact us today and learn more about how our common-sense approach can benefit your business.