5 Generations in the Workplace and Travel Policy

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5 min read

For the first time in history, there are five generations in the workplace. From Gen Z to The Silent Generation, the diversity of life stages is the most complicated it’s been in history. In the same way that corporate culture and policies are evolving to stamp out issues like the “wage gap”, organisations need to address the issues created by the “age gap”.

The stakes are high. Attracting and retaining talent in today’s multigenerational workplace is challenging, which puts company culture under the spotlight. According to the 2022 EY US Generation Survey, 90% of surveyed workers said that company culture impacts their decision to stay at their current employer. A company culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and considers the values, needs and perspectives of its employees is vital to remaining competitive.

And a travel policy can go a long way creating this kind of culture.

Bonnie Smith, GM of Corporate Traveller, explains: “The cookie-cutter approach to travel policy is no longer effective. Inclusivity is more critical than ever before in a world where the workplace now includes five different generations. Our definition of inclusivity also needs to evolve to stay relevant. It’s not just about minority groups or those with special travel needs but also about preferences and personal priorities.

“Though these five generations all want to feel valued, each has its own mix of priorities, and whether it be through interpersonal interaction, flexibility, choice or sustainability, your travel policy needs to be dynamic enough to cater to each set of needs,” says Smith.

But what are the needs of each generation?

[1928-1945] The Silent Generation

Endorsed, established brands with a good track record appeal to the Silent Generation, and they tend to stick with what they know. Physical accessibility is important, as is clarity in travel policies and ease of booking, tracking and reporting. This generation does not use sharing, social and digital technology; they prefer to communicate in person and appreciate hard copies of information.

Smith points out: “Though the Silent Generation is the healthiest elder generation in history, travel insurance, specifically those policies that cover health and wellness, are a vital part of their travel policies.”

[1946-1964] Baby Boomers

Booking, tracking and reporting are not determining factors of satisfaction when it comes to Baby Boomers, but access to free Wi-Fi, flexibility, and hotels with business centres are priorities. Though they are tech-literate, they don’t engage with sharing technology like Airbnb and Uber. In a survey conducted by Software Advice, only 3% of Baby Boomers were interested in the idea of a robotic room service or a robotic butler. Baby Boomers favour direct in-person communication and appreciate a personal touch.

“Customised, person-to-person service goes a long way in ensuring Baby Boomer satisfaction. Getting through airport security, being able to check in their bags and having their family obligations respected is more important than choice in travel plans, and it is key to opt for structured plans that offer flexibility when accommodating this generation,” advises Smith.

[1965-1980] Generation X

Generation X greatly values work-life balance and family life. Bleisure – extending business trips for leisure and inviting family members to join them – is a growing requirement within this age group.

“With the rise of bleisure, company travel policies need to clearly define the parameters of what constitutes leisure and business, especially when it comes to duty of care and expenses,” says Smith.

The ability to make changes to travel plans is also essential for Generation X.

As Smith explains, “Flexibility in travel plans is a major driver of satisfaction for Generation X, and it can be a deciding factor in whether they use company booking tools or book directly with suppliers themselves. This can present a problem in terms of leakage, so it would be wise to modify travel policies to include the flexibility vital to this generation.”

Generation X is also not constantly connected like its younger counterparts, as they use a desktop to interact with technologies. Therefore, the details of their travel plans must be confirmed and well-organised beforehand.

[1981-1996] Millennials

Millennials see travel as part of their identity and travel the most out of all the generations. According to a study conducted by Expedia, the average Millennial travels 35 days a year, while Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Generation Z travel around 26-29 days.

“Currently in their 30s and 40s, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, so understanding this generation is key to creating sustainable travel policies. They are fluent in the latest technologies and use Airbnb and e-hailing, and they want to choose their own accommodation. Millennials also enjoy unique and social itineraries, so when considering this generation offering various accommodation options and interesting group activities will greatly add to their satisfaction,” recommends Smith.

Millennials are likely to extend their trips for bleisure and enjoy a digital nomad culture – remote and hybrid work. This calls for clear-cut travel policies that outline what is covered and what is not.

[1976-2015] Generation Z

Generation Z are digital natives, meaning they have never known the world without digital technologies and have grown up with computers, smartphones and the internet. They communicate through technology and use their phones to interact with the world and organise their daily life.

“If you want to maintain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining future talent, now is the time to tap into the needs of Generation Z as they enter the workforce.

Be aware that they have different priorities than the other generations and that they prize mental health and freedom of choice over structure and conformity. They are also champions of social justice and climate-friendly practices, and remote working and bleisure are important to them.

Their travel policies must reflect these priorities and allow for flexibility while clearly stating the framework for leisure and remote work.”

Start the process – check in with your people

So how do you transform your travel policy? “In collaboration with a TMC like Corporate Traveller, you can craft a travel policy that is both flexible and relevant. It is crucial to involve members from different generations within your organisation to understand their unique travel preferences rather than making assumptions. By acknowledging your employees’ individuality and working closely with your TMC, you can create a people-led travel policy that aligns with your company culture, ensuring everyone feels seen and valued as humans,” advises Smith.

For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email dorine@bigambitions.co.za.