Millennial Travelers

The Case For Millennial-Friendly Travel Policies - By Mat Orrego, CEO of Cornerstone Information Systems

closeup of a young man holding a chalkboard with text our name is the millennials in front of a brick wall
The Case For Millennial-Friendly Travel Policies

Cornerstone Information Systems

We have many misconceptions about Millennials. This generation is often characterized as self-absorbed, over-connected, and non-committal. Frankly, I’m not sure how they got such a bad rap. What I see when I look at Millennials are inspired, tech-savvy, and creative employees who desire flexibility. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want flexibility? Most companies could use more of these traits.

To understand Millennials, it helps to understand the world in which they were raised. Of course, the Internet had a massive influence, but this generation also came of age during The Great Recession. They saw the devastating effects not only on their families, many of which lost their savings and some of which lost their homes but also on their own debt. Most of them left college with hefty loans and weren’t able to find employment after having done “all the right things.” As a result, they are creative free thinkers with an entrepreneurial spirit and a penchant for finding great deals. These are good things! Millennials bring a unique and necessary value to the modern company.

So where does travel policy fit in? Millennials tend to switch companies every two years—and replacing them costs $15,000 to $20,000 (Washington Post). Building a company culture that will increase their tenure is essential to managing human resource costs in the coming years, and it will generally make companies more successful and productive. Turns out Millennials value culture but not the kind with ping-pong tables and free pizza. Building a culture that Millennials appreciate involves not only opening up creative opportunities and being more flexible but also “building sustainable structures to accelerate the connectedness within your company,” according to Forbes. Travel policy is a critical consideration as this generation moves into management roles. One in four Millennials are already in management positions, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Let me backtrack here and say that companies need not differentiate policies based on a general definition of generations. Issues with travel policy aren’t really generational; they are more hierarchical. Those with “power” make the policy, usually because they are more experienced and have been trusted as stewards of their company funds. Those with less power will more often than not view policy as a barrier to getting the job done, and this is regardless of age. I would prefer to view the “millennial perspective” as an opportunity to question the status quo and drive efficiencies, but I use the generational perspective here because it is a useful framework for understanding how and why the status quo needs to shift.

How people work is important to recognize, and if your policies reflect this—including your travel program—your staff will feel that you value them. Travel policies should complement your employees’ ability to give their best effort no matter their generation.

Here’s what you can take from the younger staff in your company to make your policies more sustainable. When compared with baby boomers, Millennials have equally important but very different values. Millennials privilege happiness, discovery, and passion, while boomers value justice, family, duty, and practicality. As a result of growing up in the recession, Millennials invest more in experiences and less in things. From a travel policy perspective, Millennials will respond favorably to flexibility that allows them to stay and play. They may want to stay over the weekend in a destination at the last minute which means companies need negotiated rates that don’t have change fees, as well as policies that allow for personal travel at corporate rates. Give them the reins as much as possible in choosing where they stay and how they get there. You won’t be sorry; they are deal seekers focused on hunting for the best value.


I’m still not sure why Millennials’ connectedness is a problem for so many companies. If you don’t abuse their willingness to be in touch, the fact that they want to be connected 24/7 is an asset. Millennials are device dependent and prefer flexibility about when and where they work because they are always connected, but 77% report that face-to-face meetings are important to them (OfficeVibe). From a travel perspective, their reliance on technology means they need to be able to move across devices for booking, and they expect a well-designed travel booking experience. Most corporate travel tools aren’t there, yet. It is also important to consider global mobile phone coverage and WiFi access in your plans.

When it comes to implementing “millennial-friendly” policies, which I’d rather just call “traveler-friendly,” engage employees of all ages. Benefit from Millennials’ social and creative natures; they can often envision a better way of doing things. Consider partnering Millennials with boomers for a cross-generational conversation. For instance, create sessions like How I Use My Smart Phone While Traveling, so you can gather practical feedback from varied perspectives. Finally, face the fact that many travel tools are “lame.” This isn’t generational; it’s just true. Look for innovative solutions that have appeal with younger employees as you adopt new tools and technologies.

I can’t overstate the importance of giving this issue attention now. Anything companies can do to increase retention among Millennials benefits the bottom line in the long term. Fortunately, creating a culture that engages Millennials is almost certain to increase innovation and make for a happier staff in general, regardless of age.

About Mat Orrego

As CEO of Cornerstone, Mat Orrego is passionate about helping clients solve the complex travel-technology issues of today’s operations and fulfillment processes. He believes in investing in relationships and helping his clients stay focused on managing and growing their businesses. After earning his degree in finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Mat began his career in the financial services industry in 1985. Later, he joined Gant Travel Management where he spent four years working in front and back office operations. At Gant, he developed a core understanding of how technology can make a business more efficient and profitable. In 1992, Mat’s entrepreneurial spirit drove him to define success on his own terms by co-founding Cornerstone Information Systems. He is also an active investor in companies both in and outside the travel industry. Interest ranging from food manufacturing, real-estate development, professional sport teams, to working with other angle investors to help grow early stage companies.  Mat also works with various non-profit, micro-lending organizations that benefit entrepreneurs in third-world countries.

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