As the co-founder and CEO of Groupize, Alisa de Gaspe Beaubien knows a thing or two about technology facilitating travel and meetings management. She makes the case that integrating such technology throughout the enterprise is becoming more important as the very nature of work and workplaces experiences rapid evolution.
The corporate travel market has traditionally been divided into two segments: standard transient travel and meeting and event travel. However, the transformation accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic inspired consideration of a third segment of business travel, comprising what some call “return to base.” Essentially, this is travel by employees or teams who did not travel in the past, and now will be required to travel for internal meetings and events.
As IHG CEO Keith Barr explained in February, “Instead of driving to the office five days a week, employees may have to fly in once a month. And so they’re going to have to use hotels as gathering places to do things that in the past they have done in their offices.”
This emerging segment of internal M&E behaves differently than traditional M&E travel but benefits from the same technology used to manage all components of the meeting experience.
What Is The Future Of Work?
The term “future of work” contemplates the massive disruption the pandemic unleashed on how people and companies collaborate and organize.
One of the most significant disruptions to emerge from the pandemic is the work-from-anywhere model, driving organizations to rethink the amount of space they need and lean toward reducing their real estate footprints.
According to a September 2020 FlexJobs study, 95 percent of 4,000 remote workers have been equally or more productive overall since leaving the office; 73 percent said remote work has improved their work-life balance, and 81 percent said they would be more loyal to their employer if offered flexible work options moving forward.
Videoconferencing and other collaboration tools empower employees to work virtually and stay connected to their teammates and customers without a commute into the office each day. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, informed his employees that they could continue working from home “forever.” Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, also announced that employees could work from home. JPMorgan announced a “rotational model” for its corporate and bank employees, which number around 60,000.
With organizations realizing they can make do with less office space, the office will have to become a destination for collaboration and community. When co-workers are not in the office or meeting face to face, technology will be their conduit for interaction. Companies and employees also recognize they still require in-person engagement for both culture-building purposes and to accelerate teamwork on key projects.
This inspired the emergence of that third segment of corporate travel, distinct from traditional large meeting and event groups.
While this disruption and the work-from-anywhere phenomenon may create a negative impact on the commercial real estate market, and disrupt HR strategies, it also introduces a new type of demand within the corporate travel sector.
This transformation prompted organizations to rethink their policies and budgets, shifting spend to technology that supports this evolving environment, and from external events to internal events. Policies and budgets may fall partly or wholly within the IT or HR departments.
The New Segment’s Technology Needs
In 2021 and beyond, technology will play a critical role in reducing spend through digitization, automation and the enhanced use of virtual and hybrid meetings and events. The functionality needs to address this new business travel segment of small group travel and internal meetings. All members and departments within an organization will need unparalleled access to a centralized hub that provides the tools needed to manage sourcing, registration, travel, duty of care, workflows and spend.
The technology must address the following aspects:
Hybrid: While the pandemic turned Zoom and other virtual meeting tools into a household name, they do not support in-person or hybrid meetings effectively.
All use cases: Technology previously used by procurement, meetings admins or travel managers must now apply for HR teams responsible for managing their newly distributed workforce — including recruiting, onboarding, training, internal meetings, company retreats and other employee engagement events to foster team-building and company culture. Companies now want to invest in the event experience for internal meetings, as they have for external meetings in the past. Enterprise software must complement collaboration tools (i.e., Slack, Teams/MS Office, G Suite, Zoom) for managing the in-person and hybrid company meetings
Spend governance: Client management and sales teams, with a greater need to reconvene their internal teams previously co-located in the same office, will need to drive or fly more frequently to do so. With reduced travel budgets, we will see fewer one-off trips to visit a customer or make a sales pitch. Instead, customer success and sales teams will shift to an inbound model where customers and prospects are invited into a central location for meetings, workshops, onboarding, etc. The same goes for executive sessions and board meetings traditionally held at headquarters.
Easy to use and DIY: The technology needs to be easy to use by anyone, not just professional planners. Executive admins who organize these sessions will take on meeting and event planning duties that are more complex than traditional HQ-based events. Travel managers will take on new tasks and responsibilities with the convergence of meetings and travel. HR will use the technology to help teams work better while also reimagining recruiting initiatives. The list goes on to marketing, projects, training and tasks for other departments not traditionally involved with events and travel.
Though most of us agree that working from home has its benefits, we also miss the intrinsic human experience of working together face-to-face. Looking ahead, the focus for organizational leaders will be on creating a new work world that keeps employees happy and productive, and fosters demand for a new segment of travel and meetings that will become the norm at workplaces globally.