A Brighter Way to Measure Travel’s Impact

For the amount of money firms spend on travel, surely they’d like to know the impact. There is an incredibly practical – and pretty easy –  way to answer this question.

Forget about ROI – it’s too theoretical.  Skip Big Data – it’s irrelevant.  Instead, focus on what matters and what’s measurable.

Think about the issue this way: At what point is too much travel counter-productive?

Spend too much time on planes and you’re not selling.  Cross too many time zones and you’re not giving clients such good advice, or making such good decisions on that oil rig. Take too many redeyes in coach and you’re seeing a doctor for a cranky neck or worse, deep vein thrombosis.

It’s about cause and effect; travel and impact. So the approach is simple.

First, identify the road warriors in your firm, and their business unit leaders.  Ask those business unit leaders which business metrics matter, and might be affected by too much travel, and are measurable.  Think sales, hours billed, customer satisfaction, safety, etc.

Go to HR, and ask which HR metrics matter, and might be affected by too much travel, and are measurable.  Think absenteeism, engagement, disability costs, retention, etc.

Now use your travel data to find a comparable group of employees that has done much less travel than your road warrior group.  So now you have a cohort of low-travel employees and a cohort of high-travel employees.

We’re almost there.  With a bit of analytical muscle, measure each cohort’s average result on each metric.  Then compare the two groups, testing for statistical differences. Something like this, perhaps:

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Voila!  You now have a fact-driven analysis of travel’s impact.  The impact on your business, and the impact on your people. The implications will be clear.

Too much turnover, absenteeism and disability costs among your high-travel group?  Cut back their travel workload and/or loosen your travel policies for the road warriors.

No meaningful differences between the two groups?  Your travel policies are probably fine, but then what is all that extra, possibly excessive, travel really doing for your firm?

Either way, having these facts gives travel managers, HR executives and business leaders a clear-eyed view of travel’s impact.  Making solid business cases for changing travel workloads, travel budgets and travel policies is now ever so much easier.

The best part?  Travel category managers get to lead on this issue.  For you folks that are frustrated by delivering diminishing returns from mature sourcing and policy compliance, you should be first in line to drive this type of study in your organization.

For those interested in jump-starting a travel impact study, tClara and I can help.  We can quickly score your travelers’ Trip Friction™ levels, create the cohorts, and benchmark your firm’s travel intensity to those in our database.

I’ll be at the ACTE Global Conference in Miami at the end of this month, and hope to connect with many of you there.

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Identifying Travel-related Retention Risks

?????????Who can say when a traveler has reached that dreary destination of travel burnout?

It’s a very individual issue, yes?  For some, it may take years of constant hopping from terminal to taxi, while others may arrive after a few weeks of  run-of-the-mill trips, but are suffering the consequences of way too many problems piling up at home.

I knew I was in travel burnout land when, after a few months of intense travel, the sight of my suitcase made me cringe.

Fortunately, there’s a better way to identify travelers at risk of burnout, without having to flash pictures of carry-ons in front of them and look for signs of dread.

My firm, tClara, is scoring traveler itineraries with Trip Friction™ points.  The goal is to create a proxy for the wear and tear travelers incur during their trips.

Why bother?  Because all that travel-related wear and tear eventually creates real costs.  Productivity costs.  Health care and even disability costs.  Lower employee engagement levels.  And eventually the toughest one – employee turnover.

Our industry needs a good metric, a new KPI, to shine a light on this hidden cost of too much travel. Without such a metric, I don’t see how you can truly claim to optimize a travel program…but that’s another story.  Here’s our approach to measuring traveler wear and tear: Continue reading

Road Warrior Burnout: A Worthy Problem

Too much travel can cause anybody a load of stress.   Exhibit A is Brad Feld, one of Silicon Valley’s best-known angel/venture capitalists.  He lives in Colorado and was traveling 50-75% of the time.   He hit a wall.  Knew he couldn’t keep it up and still lead an emotionally healthy life.

His solution?  He quit traveling for business – cold turkey.  The Harvard Business Review interviewed him here, and Brad writes about it here.   Not traveling seems to be working for him.

The question is, how many of your firm’s road warriors are in danger of hitting this kind of wall?  The consequences can’t be good.

An Alarming “What If”

Imagine if the top ten percent of your frequent travelers called a long-term strike on business travel, like Brad Feld did.  What would happen to your customer relationships,  business development, staff development, collaboration, innovation, etc, etc.? Not to mention the cost of replacing those no-more-travelers  with folks who will travel a lot (or so they say).

What Are The Signs?

Surely your frequent travelers make up some, maybe much of your firm’s top-rated talent.  So who is watching for the early warning signs of traveler burnout?  Who even knows what those signs are?

And if you see those early warning signs, what’s the right response – less travel? Better quality or less stressful travel? Travel recovery days? Dinner for two on the company’s dime?

Who Owns The Problem? Continue reading