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Business travel 2.0: What role for global mobility?

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A new estimate suggests that the globally mobile workforce will expand to 1.87 billion people by 2022. As global mobility becomes more widespread, the continuum is expanding to include commuters, business travellers and traditional assignees. This estimate represents the growing market for global mobility services and support.Together with technology and demographic trends, the growing mobile population is disrupting established definitions, and potentially collapsing the boundaries between corporate travel departments and global mobility.“Mobility professionals are being asked really for the first time in the past few years to take more of a role in travel, build integration and relationships across the company,” noted Robert Horsley, Executive Director of immigration experts, Fragomen.

Where does global mobility meet business travel?

Mr Horsley was joined by Catherine McGavock, Regional Vice President – EMEA of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), Dr Barry Dyer, Regional Medical Information & Analysis Manager, International SOS, and William Sandover, an independent aviation and travel risk advisor and chair of the GBTA’s travel risk management committee.Setting the scene, Mr Horsley asked the panellists where to start for robust programmes to manage these changes, as well as how mobility can stay proactive to the benefits and challenges of this more digital mobile world and improve employee experience.

Technology shaping the way we travel and live

Dr Barry Dyer of International SOS identified the useful tracking and approval tools travel management companies and global mobility teams are adopting. Some vendors, such as those in the sharing economy, and employers are also responding in innovative ways to the desire for individuals to choose and make their own travel arrangements, added Catherine McGavock.They are promoting interactivity and gamifying processes in relevant ways that are putting individuals in charge within a policy framework and budget.

Balancing individual with corporate needs

For travel risk adviser William Sandover, these developments can present a problem around duty of care and whether individuals travelling on business know what the wise choices are.“Duty of care is an absolute,” he said. “Companies may decide to take a pretty elastic view of what employees can do, but if it goes wrong, it can snap back and hurt.”Using the example of social media, Mr Sandover outlined cases where individuals shared their travels online. This has left people open to criminal activity, from burglaries while they were away to kidnapping from the airport and risks to commercially sensitive information.Some companies are also seeing discontent among colleagues around travel arrangements and how people are travelling.

Proactive approaches to safeguarding business travellers

To explore how employers can strike the right balance between autonomy and duty of care, including around road traffic accidents – the most common cause of death for US mobile workers and business travellers – the panel discussed varying perspectives on the extent of duty of care and individual responsibility. In certain sectors, including government departments, there is a mind set of “always on duty” when on assignment, explained Dr Dyer. This extends to policies to protect employees’ safety and wellbeing, for example, on always riding in appropriate vehicles that are roadworthy and where brakes have been serviced.Here the key message was “be prepared”. The panel agreed that prevention is the best cure, which includes access to up to date advice, which can be delivered digitally. For example, locations where diseases like Malaria and Yellow Fever are prevalent frequently change, said Dr Dyer, as can situations like natural or human disasters that can cause travel curtailment, with possible impacts on medication and prescriptions availability.Apps, texts and email alerts can easily map out danger zones, inform travellers and employers, and recommend vaccinations upfront.

Accent on wellbeing?

Yet even with this proactive approach, there is no guarantee an employer or outsourced wellbeing provider has travellers’ and assignees’ attention.For Catherine McGavock, the “challenges remain the same” around business travel as they ever were, with only delivery methods changing. These are about first understanding the risks, then the application of policies and processes to make these work and mitigate these in a living document that is properly communicated so people understand. “I don’t think that’s any different to ten years ago,” Ms McGavock suggested. However, with the current accent on wellbeing at work, arguably there could be big – and positive – changes ahead for travellers’ and mobile employees’ experiences.Digital platforms can encourage connectivity and community, therefore reducing isolation, while pre-assignment profiling can offer a more holistic view of duty-of-care that aligns with business values and employee experience.

More integrated travel and mobility ecosystems

Summing up, panel chair Robert Horsley said: “My perception is that travel, mobility, tax and legal all had their own silos. Travel was a hot potato nobody really wanted to take on. In today’s world of more integrated ecosystems, I think it is imperative. “I think people are looking to integrate more and work with their colleagues and that really this is expected. How do we align all these things to what the business really needs? “I’ve seen more of my mobility colleagues across the world embrace it because you are able to impact – you have enough data and visibility and people are looking to you to hear your voice and experiences. We think there is a nexus here for mobility and travel.”

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