Sunday 20 October 2019

Companies need to play it safe in the war for talent

Gatwick drone incident
Gatwick drone incident

Mark Evans

TRAVELLING abroad - a huge perk that makes you the envy of your desk-bound colleagues?

Not always, according to the latest research from travel industry giant SAP Concur, which found that almost half (48pc) of business travellers would consider not heading abroad if it took them to a location that they deemed unsafe.

Worryingly, almost one in five of the 7,400 European travellers polled said they had been involved in or near a "risky" situation last year alone. That figure rises to 23pc in the case of British travellers, with situations in this category including flooding, epidemics, riots, earthquake or terrorist attacks.

There's a double whammy, though. An average of 20pc of European business travellers believed, rightly or wrongly, that their employer could not provide any professional support, such as an extraction from the country or instant alert communication in a major incident. The Finns were the least trusting, at 33pc, with Germany close behind at 27pc. SAP Concur, a big player in the market of connected spend management solutions, taking in expenses, compliance and risk, believes there's a "paralysis" in the area, with a need for companies to communicate their duty of care systems and policies to employees.

"The world can be a scary place: people obviously read the news, and deem places to be risky based on things they hear," Emma Maslen, managing director of UK Enterprise at the company, told the Sunday Independent.

But perception and reality can be very different, as she points out: "In countries that we don't feel as being risky there were travellers involved in major incidents. If you take France, 35pc of travellers who went there last year and were surveyed were involved in a major incident."

She added that as well as being the right thing to do, being seen as having gold-standard safety is vital in a changing world. "If you look at the younger generation, and the war on talent that there is, more and more young people are looking for how their company is going to react, and choose to work there on the basis of well-being, duty-of-care benefit and how well they treat you."

So it's a message of "communication for retention and talent acquisition", Maslen believes,

Interestingly, while terror attacks are the nightmare scenario, smaller every day situations are more likely to cause the most misery for business travellers.

She cites the recent drone saga in London's Gatwick Airport, which had a "huge knock-on effect on visa situations. Thousands of travellers were displaced and in the wrong country, abroad trying to get to Gatwick or were there trying to get out, with visas expiring".

In cases like these, staff need to know who to call, and what procedures are in place should something go wrong. It's a huge issue in the area of tax, said Maslen, who's been working in that area recently with EY. "In places like Singapore if you have a tax liability you won't be allowed to leave the country, you won't be getting a tax bill."

It's a case of companies keeping their employees informed if there is a potential problem given the amount of time, based on analysing their data, that they've spent working in another jurisdiction. But she admits there is a "dichotomy" now between staff wanting to be kept safe, but feeling wary about sharing their data, including real-time location, with outside parties. Maslen was in London when the Westminster Bridge attack took place and was checked up on by her company, via third-party assistance provider Helix, as it knew she was in the area. It sent a critical text alert asking her to check in to say she was okay, or if she needed assistance.

However, the survey found roughly one in five European business travellers would not give their consent for data to be shared with third parties - even if it was managed in line with GDPR and was done to create a robust duty-of-care strategy.

"We were doing a panel with EY at BTS [the recent Business Travel Show in London] and they were talking to us about people's perceptions about the US or China having their data." She says that while "it's potentially an unfounded fear", it is an issue of trust. But there's a big question out there now - how can you be cared for without sharing too much data? "We live in a world where younger travellers want to use what apps they like," she says. "They want an experience where they put data in once and it's handled through that whole journey, yet we worry about 'big brother' and people knowing where we are and who is handling our data."

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business