Employee mobility is a HR issue

A number of factors like hybrid and flexible working are shifting the agenda around business travel. We’re seeing a new conversation around business mobility that is now also about employee welfare and social value.

Businesses are involving their HR teams in travel and mobility decisions that had previously been driven by a fleet team or travel managers, to see how mobility policies can better support the changing needs and concerns of employees.

Some employees are still worried about social distancing in relation to using public transport, while others are thinking about the cost of using their own vehicle for travel. Many organisations also need to consider how their mobility strategy aligns to their carbon reduction policies. 

Are friends electric?

For example, physical location is a huge consideration for businesses not operating in highly connected or urban areas. It’s also an important conversation around electrification. How many employees have ever used an electric vehicle (EV), if not could they access one through a car club or rental car? In which case, how many people have access to charging facilities at home, if required?

If a business is increasing employee access to EVs, or it is simply a case that more people are driving their own EVs, does it then need to think about installing charging points at work locations?

Our electrification project at Enterprise’s European HQ was a good learning example where HR worked with the property team – as well as other areas of employee engagement and CSR commitments – to plan and deliver the project in a way which benefited our people and the business.

Managing the ‘grey fleet’

Surveys of employees who use their own car for work indicates they have strong views, especially around cost and depreciation as well as the speed of reimbursement.

And yet for many, the de facto option for work-related travel remains the personal car. Enterprise conducted research into the UK’s business travel habits in 2020 and nearly half (44%) of those surveyed use their own cars for work and claim mileage reimbursement. This ‘grey fleet’ model may offer convenience, but businesses need to think about how it can affect their employees.

It assumes that employees can always make their car available for work, and that it is maintained, fuelled, and insured for business use. There is a duty of care around ensuring employees have equal access and inclusion to the workplace, including access to transport.

Developing mobility policies proactively will typically be welcomed given an employee may prefer not to raise issues around the cost of mobility or other related concerns they feel may affect perceptions in the workplace.

There are also implications pertaining to the business’ responsible practices. Privately-owned vehicles are usually older cars – thus with higher emissions and less fuel-efficient than fleet or pool vehicles. Furthermore, these grey fleet cars become further devalued each time mileage is clocked up. Wear and tear can be costly to the owners and becomes an active health and safety risk if vehicles are not regularly maintained.

Why this matters for HR

The reality is that getting the right mobility solution is a significant business opportunity and well-considered policies can greatly support organisational targets for recruitment and retention.      

HR teams are becoming more closely involved in the creation of a business’s mobility policy, working in partnership with the fleet and travel managers and, most importantly, listening to employees.

Data is key, especially now as travel requirements are so affected by remote, flexible and hybrid working. The strategy should be data-informed to meet the specific requirements of those contracted to travel to/for work and to ensure it works equally well for all stakeholders – employer and employee alike.

Mobility policies should build in suitable, affordable options for each stage of a journey made for business travel – and supporting employees’ health & safety and wellbeing.

It means giving people options and the tools to plan their business travel. Journey planning can be a particularly complex proposition for those who entered the workforce or changed employers since 2020.

The travel policy is an HR tool

Employees need to feel supported, now more than ever, however they choose to work or travel. Giving people the security of knowing they will always be able to get to/from the workplace safely, and will be covered for every leg of longer business trips is a wellbeing consideration and helps drive loyalty, productivity and effectiveness.

A mobility policy that supports environmentally responsible practices and decarbonisation, say through the use of on-site car clubs at work providing access to electric vehicles, can also help employees embrace active travel methods such as walking and cycling.

The data shows mobility ‘hubs’ that offer cars alongside bikes and scooters encourage employees to commute by public transport, knowing they have easy access to multiple forms of transport at their place of work if they need to make a journey for business.

Considered travel and mobility policies that take an employee-led perspective help to achieve several aims. Rethinking what business mobility could look like for the future can build a stronger workforce and communicate an important message around inclusion and employee care.

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