Capita Will Deliver
BY AMON COHEN
And that led to a greater
risk of accidents,
campaign seemed like a
good idea at first.
But it also yielded
more & longer
The good news was
fewer hotel &
Top 10 U.K. travel management company Capita Travel
& Events is the latest business to explore how travel affects productivity and other human capital challenges for
corporations. It is proposing to track and manage traveler well-being, partly by developing communications
programs that nudge employees toward smarter trip
planning or, better still, finding a travel alternative.
Capita Travel & Events aims to launch the service,
named Smarter Working, in September. Chief commercial officer Trevor Elswood is helming the strategy
after spending a year developing the concept with other subsidiaries of parent group Capita, the business
process management and support services specialist
that is one of the U.K.’s largest private sector employers. One of those subsidiaries, a Big Data analytics
specialist, evaluated data from approximately 27,000
business travelers at Capita and other companies. The
analysis showed 27 percent more sick days for employees who annually spent 50 days or more traveling
on business. At Capita specifically, the analysis found
significant underutilization of virtual conferencing
facilities and revealed that a “no travel” campaign reduced Capita’s domestic rail and hotel bookings but
caused unwelcome spikes in day trips by car.
With that data, Elswood collaborated with two more
Capita subsidiaries, one specializing in gamification and
the other in changing behavior through e-learning, to
build a client communications program. “We looked to
see what we could translate into the world of corporate
travel,” said Elswood. “If you applied Big Data to travel,
where would it take you? We wanted to see how travelers behave, and how the power of understanding your
audience and modifying language can create better communications to nudge people to do the right thing.”
Acting on Big Data
Elswood and his Big Data colleagues started by matching T&E management information with videoconfer-encing-usage reports and employee data like age, gender, length of service and number of sick days. They
threw in fleet data like employee vehicle mileage and
insurance accident reports and external information
like weather records and even crime data. Then they
added qualitative research by interviewing travelers.
Elswood discovered that lack of coordination between internal travel management, HR and facilities
management within Capita led to the underuse of
virtual conferencing: 11 percent of travel between internal sites where virtual conferencing was available
was found to be replaceable. Barriers included lack
of education about how the technology worked and
poor calendar management. Capita addressed these
issues with improved scheduling, training videos and
the widespread installation of Skype for Business to
supplement heavy-duty facilities.
Analysis of the travel-reduction campaign also proved
an eye-opener. Not only did car usage rise 5 percent
above normal during the month of the campaign, but
the car journeys also were longer as employees racked
up mileage to avoid hotel bookings. Absenteeism rose
in consequence, and there was an increased risk of
accidents—bad for employees and bad for insurance
premiums at a company where the average employee
spends 9. 2 days per year driving on company business.
That amounted to 1. 9 million hours of driving
hours in 2015, and Capita has started to think about
how it could reduce that figure, either through more
virtual conferencing or a shift further to rail, especially for higher-salaried employees who can work
on the train. Weather data was scrutinized to see
whether moving employees onto trains, especially in
winter months, would reduce insurance premiums.
“You start to think about traveler policy instead of
travel policy,” said Elswood.
The biggest wake-up call in Elswood’s research was
the 27 percent higher absenteeism rate among the most
frequent travelers, which cost Capita £ 2. 3 million per
year. Once again, a deeper data dive provided more
specific insight: Absenteeism is highest among international travelers and those who make frequent early
morning departures. By identifying travelers who fit
this profile, “we can forecast that if they carry on like
this, they are likely to be unwell soon,” said Elswood.
Capita has started sending alerts to travelers but also
copying in their line managers and the HR department.
Elswood’s next mission was to analyze employee
data to understand behavior by demographic. He
found that infrequent travelers spend less prudently
on travel, whereas frequent travelers understand
how to buy smarter, booking more than 14 days in
advance, for example. On the other hand, longer-serving employees are more likely to test policy rules,
whereas newer ones are more compliant.
The project developed targeted corrective messages for each group. Elswood’s communications colleagues, for example, recommended subtly different
messages for men and for women, generally appealing to the competitive instincts of the former and to
the “group good” impulses of the latter.
Launching to Clients
Come September, Capita Travel & Events customers
will have access to educational videos and what Elswood dubbed an “intelligent communications hub” that
delivers tailored messages. An example: “All of your colleagues are saving money by doing split ticketing on rail
journeys.” The message, he said, would explain how to
book split tickets and how much could be saved.
The links between HR and travel have attracted
increased attention in recent years, including traveler friction benchmarks offered by Scott Gillespie’s
tClara consultancy and a travel stress index devised
by Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Demonstrating these
links is one thing; persuading clients to act on traveler
wellness—not to mention paying a travel company to
Elswood said Capita will not charge extra fees for
the Smarter Working program. “We see this as an essential part of the way we will do business in future,”
he said. Elswood also believes senior executives are
becoming more receptive to how travel challenges
productivity, claiming, “I’ve not had one conversation with a CEO, CFO or COO where they haven’t
said, ‘Yes, we want you to come back.’”