A Better Way to Manage Road Warriors, and Their Costs

You road warriors are a hardy bunch, aren’t you?

You spend over a hundred hours a year on planes, take trips on short notice, cross too many time zones, lose sleep, gain weight, get up way early and come home late, and give up more than your share of weekends.

All while being squeezed by travel policies that leave you shaking your head, wondering if the people who approved these policies really, truly understand how hard it is to be a heavy-duty road warrior.

The Travel Friction Concept

Let’s call all this wear and tear you’re taking on “travel friction“.  You get it, right?  The more trips you take, the tougher those trips are, the more you get burned out by being on the road.

Fun fact: Real road warriors, those in the top 10% of all travelers, absorb close to 50% of all travel friction in the average firm.    So you really are in a separate class when it comes to work-life balance challenges, and not surprisingly, for higher risk of quitting your job.

It’s this risk of attrition, of getting burned out on travel and quitting the road, that is the key to a better way of managing all you road warriors.

Old-School Procurement Is The Problem

Procurement folks must address the travel category.  The spend is too big, and the purchase practices too important, for them to ignore.

The old-fashioned way of procuring travel has been – and sadly, still is – to focus intensely on the travel supplier’s costs.  Hammer that airfare down, demand a lower hotel rate, haggle over a buck or two a day for the rental car.

At the same time, procurement knows that travelers need to abide by travel policies that further reduce travel supplier costs.  Things like taking extra connections, flying 12 hours in coach, or staying at inconvenient 3-star hotels…all the things that you road warriors really hate.

Procurement has been doing it this way for twenty years. Call this the “transaction cost” model of managing travel.

New-School Procurement Is the Solution

All we have to do is get procurement to look at the total cost of travel, not just the supplier’s portion.  Specifically, the cost of travel friction.

These travel friction costs come in a few forms: lost productivity, higher health costs, more safety incidents, and the killer – higher turnover.

The good news is that these travel friction costs can all be quantified.  The better news is that procurement folks already get the “total cost” concept.  They use it all the time in other cost categories.  Think computers or cars, and their total cost of ownership.

More Than Just Tiered Travel Policies

Many companies give their frequent travelers a more traveler-friendly policy.  Maybe you get business class on long haul flights and an airport lounge membership. Woo-hoo.

There are many other ways for your firm to reduce the amount of travel friction you take on.  Consider these options:

  • Recognition.  Wouldn’t a simple thank you from a senior exec go a long way to taking the sting out of that last month of road warrior hell you went through?
  • Less Travel.  What if your firm had a travel friction warning light that started to flash when you’ve reached a certain level of travel? Or a proactive way to share your travel duties with a colleague?
  • Better Trips – Safer, Healthier, Easier.  What does “better” mean to you?  Shouldn’t your firm at least know your particular preferences?
  • Better Travel Culture.  You’re a road warrior, not a Navy Seal.  Maybe your firm needs to promote a more traveler-tolerant culture.  Some companies do this by discouraging need-to-travel meetings on Mondays and Fridays.
  • Travel Counseling.  A few of you are very likely addicted to traveling.  You and your firm should recognize this, and put some practical options on the table.

Road warriors are a very valuable segment of any firm’s workforce.  It’s well worth reducing the friction in this important part of the business machine.

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This entry was posted in Sustainable Travel, Travel Management, Travel Procurement, Traveler Friction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Better Way to Manage Road Warriors, and Their Costs

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Posts in 2015; What should I write about in 2016? | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement

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