I have increasingly been noticing many managers position corporate travel to their teams as a big perquisite/perk of their jobs. This really, I think, is an unnecessary practice. I have myself been a part of enough number of meetings where senior managers tend to say that, ' this is a good opportunity to go abroad and see things from a different perspective', or, things like, 'you are selected to go to America, pack your bags', or, other statements like, 'we have invested in you with this trip abroad'.
I am completely on board with the fact that people who perform and are rewarded with overseas assignments, would more often than not have earned it. But, I have never understood why such overseas stints are portrayed as a perk to the job. What many managers tend to forget that we live in a globalised world now and employees at all levels tend to have far more exposure about the world than any generation in the past.
Granted, travelling is more often than not, one of the greatest thrills of humanity. But, that really does not mean that companies need to play on this sentiment and position it as a perk to their employees, simply because, it is something that will play on the soft corners of a human's emotion. What I really think is that corporate travel is usually for a cause i.e. it is required for companies in order to achieve certain tasks at a particular international location. While the thrill of going abroad is certainly a universal human behaviour, there is absolutely no need to position this as a perk as the company is sending its employees overseas to get its job done.
The other rather startling behaviour that I have seen is the control on costs for middle and lower level employees, when it comes to overseas corporate travel. There are enough number of loopholes in travel policies that some folks in top management tend to navigate around, in order to satisfy the corporate goals. But, those loopholes or grey areas are really never navigated around, when it comes to lower level employees. I particularly remember one case where a certain VP spent the vast majority of the team budget on her official travel during the year and when her seniors laid down some serious rules of cost control, this VP sent out an email to her team saying that there would be no further travel for the year! And this was in a role that was in stark opposition to the corporate policy, albeit with some grey areas here and there.
There have been other instances too. I have seen some managers who never spent any amount from the team budget on development, training, etc and just return it to HR or use such amounts in other heads of expenditure. And, when an opportunity for some junior employee to travel abroad on work comes around, the same manager tends to shoot it down by saying, 'no budget'. That is a very illegal practice and is actually worse than positioning international corporate travel as a perk. But, at the end of the day, it is an opportunity gone by for no fault of the employee.
I think one needs to seriously relook corporate travel. People are prone to go on international holidays in this day and age and are exposed to satellite television and internet that gives them enough exposure to the world. So, companies would do better than to position travel as a perquisite to employees. It makes much more sense to me to position travel as a career development, or new learning opportunity for the employee. That would appeal to many junior and middle level employees in this age of constant reskilling.
Corporate travel can easily be used as a great tool by HR to build better skills in their existing talents, by using the lessons learnt overseas in the domestic environment. High time, managers stopped saying, 'Pack up your bags. You are going to X country'. A much better line would be, ' A great chance to build new skills, learn something new has come up in place X. I am sending you to this place for 3 weeks. Try and learn as much as you can in the new place and let's plan to adapt that back into our environment here, when you return. All the best!'