Wednesday, 15 February 2017

GUEST BLOG: A Duty of Care – getting the basics right, in and out of the office

Duty of care has never been more important than it is today: not only is business travel on the rise, but so too are the apparent dangers that travellers are being exposed to. And yet, one of the key challenges for businesses both big and small is that there’s no standard approach to Duty of Care requirements for business travel.

While guidelines that define ‘best practice’ exist, they won’t be relevant or practical to every business’ needs. As a result, it’s not surprising to find a number of different approaches to managing staff business travel. This isn’t to say that there’s not a single standard of excellence that cannot be aspired to by all – it’s just that too many fall short of the mark. A recently published report by Collinson Group[1], owner of Priority Pass, shed some interesting light on this issue.

First things first - getting the basics right
Many firms may believe that they follow Duty of Care best practice, but many are simply not getting the basics right. 65% of HR professionals at large companies (more than 250 employees) anticipate that the process of sending employees abroad will become more complicated from a Duty of Care perspective over the next 12 months, so businesses must act fast.

However, under half of HR professionals (47% at large corporates and 40% at SMEs) say that they issue staff with company guidelines with regards to business travel. And even when guidelines are issued to employees, these fall well below the mark required. A third (36%) of business travelers described the information their company issued them as “standardised and does not relate to my specific business travel needs and risks”. A universal or formulaic approach rarely solves all the challenges with regards to Duty of Care.

Businesses need to ensure they keep clear lines of communications open with their staff. 41% of employees described getting advice from their employers as ‘challenging’ or ‘extremely challenging’, while a third (36%) said it was difficult to access advice or information about their destination.

These are fundamental principles that companies need to get right. Businesses of all sizes need to ensure that effective guidelines and communication are a central tool that they provide their staff with when traveling on business.

Going the extra mile
While there is clearly work to be done on the basics for all companies, there are elements of businesses travel that have to be managed on a more pragmatic basis for businesses of different sizes. For example, travel tracking tools can be relatively expensive and so many smaller companies will not see this as a sensible option, opting instead to micro-manage the tracking of their employees’ travel directly and on an individual basis.

There are several factors to consider here and different approaches that could be taken. Employers of all sizes need to ensure that their focus is placed on giving their employees the best “customer experience” possible, while fulfilling their Duty of Care responsibilities.

With a growing public awareness, and therefore shareholder focus, on the changing nature of global travel threats, HR departments and the wider business at large will have to ensure that better processes are in place to identify risks and provide effective guidance to their increasingly mobile workforce. Businesses need to ensure they are consolidating their approach to Duty of Care and ensure that they are working with the right third party providers to achieve this.

On the road
Within the workplace, employers have a Duty of Care to provide a safe, secure and positive environment for staff to work. It’s important that this same Duty of Care is extended to staff traveling on business.

According to tClara, a company dedicated to deliver high-value analyses of corporate travel data, the top 5% of business travellers spend an average of 214 hours on an airplane every year, with 65% of this on personal time in the evenings and weekends. That is an incredible amount of time.

But even modest benefits can make a real difference to staff effectiveness and morale while making them feel more valued and engaged with the requirement to travel and spending time away from home. Half (51%) of business travellers cite that being away from their home and family was one of the most challenging aspects of traveling abroad. Amongst other top concerns and challenges, was access to consistent Wi-Fi (49%), being away from the office (38%) and the impact of travel on their productivity (36%).

For business flyers, the airport lounge has become a sanctuary, a moment for downtime and a place to relax ahead of their next journey. The reality is that if used correctly, business travel can be highly rewarding, motivating for employees and result in new business opportunities. Research from Oxford Economics revealed that for every $1 spent on business travel, a company can realise $12.50 in incremental revenue.

An increasing number of organisations are starting to recognise the value that can be gained if the experience of flying for business feels less stressful and is more productive, something that the Priority Pass team will be on standby to discuss at stand B422. We look forward to seeing you then.

This post was written by Stephen Simpson, Global Marketing Director, Priority Pass. Priority Pass will be exhibiting at the Business Travel Show and look forward to discussing business travel trends and how you can support your business travellers at stand B422.

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