EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES ON BUSINESS AIR TRAVEL

EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES ON BUSINESS AIR TRAVEL

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EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES ON BUSINESS AIR TRAVEL

Melinda Welch, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

ABSTRACT

The airline industry suffered a 6.1% decrease in air traffic during the 2008 recession.

One of the speculated reasons for that decline has been the rise in computer-mediated technology, which has allowed people to meet virtually all across the globe. The availability of such computer-mediated technologies has resulted in the increased examination of their effectiveness as a substitution for airline travel. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of business travelers’ use of commercial airlines versus use of computer-mediated technologies. Data were gathered from 60 business travelers in the Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. The data were analyzed using the motivation-opportunity-ability framework and coded to identify themes. Findings showed business travelers prefer a combination of computer-mediated and face-to-face communication. Participants noted a heavy reliance on email for communication, with training as a common reason for travel. Smart phones were also stated as critical devices for business travelers, and laptop computers were identified as helpful tools when out of the office. Findings represented that business travelers still find business travel important augmented by computer- mediated communication. Findings suggest the need for airlines to support wi-fi technologies and plug-in stations supporting business travelers. Findings also suggest that organizations continue to develop video conferencing technologies when air travel is prohibitive. This study contributes to overall positive social change by helping tourism and hospitality industries target business professionals more effectively by providing business centers, offering wi-fi, and targeting training and large-scale meeting needs.

FOUNDATION OF THE STUDY

Business travel has changed in the years following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Since this time, airlines have entered into bankruptcy and travel is substituted by emerging technologies, such as videoconferencing (Santra & Giri, 2009). In this study I assessed the needs of the business traveler to discover when they are still finding the need to travel via commercial airline versus using these emerging technologies for business meetings.

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BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM

September 11, 2001 was a devastating day in the United States; but, no one could have predicted the impact it would have on the future of commercial airlines (Chi & Baek, 2012). In the subsequent years, airlines began filing bankruptcy as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, and the rising cost of jet fuel began to become an industrial challenge (Bhadra & Kee, 2008). Consequently, management began to look to technology for less expensive ways to connect with clients, employees, and shareholders. Although these technologies can be an effective substitution for face-to-face meetings (Santra & Giri, 2009), there has to be a combination of both computer-assisted communication and face-to-face meetings (Celuch & Murphy, 2010). Technology has enabled work teams to become more dispersed geographically. However, the need for frequent communication among workers is still critical to the team’s success (Reed & Knight, 2010).

There is a gap of literature regarding why business travelers conduct business using face- to-face meetings or through the use of computer-assisted technology. Aguilera (2009) explored the reasoning behind the choice for businesses to have workers travel via commercial airlines; but, this needs to be explored further. Aguilera stated that the more complex the issue, the more likely it will require a face-to-face meeting. I sought to fill the gap by asking why business travelers choose to travel instead of using emerging technologies. The research provided in this study will help contribute to an improved business practice for commercial airlines and other hospitality industries that focus on meeting the needs of the business traveler.

PROBLEM STATEMENT

According to Pearlman and Gates (2010), companies have to innovate with technology

when it comes to business meetings. Emerging technology is allowing people to meet virtually all across the globe, and this is affecting companies with decreasing budgets and impacting the airline industry. The airline industry suffered a 6.1% decrease in air traffic during the 2008 recession and is still struggling to recover with gas prices continuing to rise and a significant drop in passengers (Franke & John, 2011). The general business problem is the decline in business travelers using air travel has caused a decline in other industries that are tied closely with commercial airlines (Pearlman & Gates, 2010). These industries include hospitality services, for example hotels and other meeting facilities. The specific business problem addressed in this study is the need to identify when business travelers are choosing air travel instead of using the many technology choices available.

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PURPOSE STATEMENT

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the lived perceptions and experiences of business people who are choosing to travel by commercial airline versus using numerous available emerging technologies for business purposes. I interviewed 60 participants at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia using a modified Van Kaam method (Moustakas, 1994). The interviews were audio recorded and then transcribed. The resulting data was formatted in matrices to identify trends.

The population for this study was current business travelers in the United States, 18 years or older, who chose to travel via commercial airlines for specific business needs.

RESEARCH QUESTION

The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain insights into the reasons why business

travelers choose to travel via commercial airliners rather than use computer-assisted communication technologies. The need to understand when business travelers choose to travel is an important aspect in understanding the underlying business needs in the United States (Aguilera, 2008). Literature exists on the airline industry’s potentially decrease in profits through the use of computer-assisted communication (Aquilera, 2008; Berry, 2008; Gustafson, 2012; Lu & Peeta, 2009). The literature consists of communication theories and the necessity of face-to-face meetings and computer-assisted communication being used to complement one another, rather than substitute forms of communication (Carare & Chang, 2010; Celuch & Murphy, 2010; Gustafson, 2012; Lu & Peeta, 2009; Majumdar, 2010; Santra & Giri, 2009). The central research question proposed for this study is as follows: Why do business travelers choose to travel versus using emerging technologies?

Subquestions for this study are as follows: 1. Why would an employee travel for business instead of using a number of emerging

technologies for communicating? 2. What technologies do business travelers use when traveling, and which ones would help

make them more productive? 3. What technologies do business travelers use instead of choosing to travel, and what are the

reasons behind this?

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ASSUMPTIONS, LIMITATIONS, AND DELIMITATIONS Assumptions

It was assumed that the research was conducted in a natural setting. According to

Creswell (2007), the importance of conducting the research in a natural setting is critical for the participant to feel at ease during the interview process. It was assumed that inductive analysis was the best method to interpret the data. Inductive analysis was used in this study to interpret the themes within the data. This analysis was used to accurately gain interpretation of the participants lived experience.

It was assumed that the participants answered the questions honestly and to the best of their ability and that the focus was on the participants’ meanings and interpretations of the questions. I was there to facilitate the questions and record responses, and did not have any influence on the participant. Also, to insure this, the participants and I had no prior knowledge of each other.

The final assumption is that I conducted a thorough literature review prior to conducting analysis. This allowed me to know the multiple perspectives that participants might have to better interpret and analyze the data.

Limitations

The limitations are: (a) the study was restricted to the population within Hartsfield-

Jackson International Airport, (b) I was seeking a cross-section of interviews that relate to jobs and industry, and (c) the data were captured over the course of 3 days.

The population is a concern with any qualitative phenomenological study (Bernard, 2000) and the main limitation is that the study was limited to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This could be a possible limitation due to the population traveling to certain locations that the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport services. Even though it is a major airport hub in the United States, it is not inclusive to every possible destination.

Another limitation is the fact that the research is broken down into several industries and types of jobs of participants. This includes industry types that are classified as service, product or retail/distribution. The job categories are broken down within the industry as: sales/marketing, operations/manufacturing, consulting/outsourcing services, and company-based support services. While this list is not comprehensive of every possible business traveler, this could be considered a limitation within the study.

The time period of data collection is another limitation to the study. The data were collected over a 3-day period. This is a short time of data collection and the participants might have had certain biases that occur out of my control during that time frame. Possible outside influences include: airport travel delays, weather or other possible unforeseen events.

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Delimitations

The scope of the study is that certain factors that are included which have significant

influence on the direction of the outcome. These delimitations are the: (a) population, (b) the sample size, and (c) the location of the study. The population interviewed was business travelers that had lived experiences about what they need to be effective in their business while they travel. The sample size of 60 interviews is due to the desire to get experiences from a cross- section of industries and job types. The choice of location is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, due my ability to gain access to the population at this location.

A REVIEW OF THE PROFESSIONAL AND ACADEMIC LITERATURE

The review of the academic and professional literature of this study is focused on three

general areas: how airlines have affected business travelers, how businesses use technology to communicate, and how motivation-opportunity-ability theory applies to this study.

Airlines and Business Travelers

According to Lu and Peeta (2009), business travelers are still the primary targets of

commercial airline industry, consisting of the majority of full-fare sales. However, this number has declined from 2001 to 2009, due primarily to terror threats, rising costs, and the introduction of teleconferencing (Lu & Peeta, 2009). Denstadli (2004) predicted that in the United States 7% of air travel for business purposes would be replaced by emerging technologies, like videoconferencing. Roy and Filiatrault (1998) stated that some of the larger risks to business travel included new business practices and emerging technology. Roy and Filatrault believed that videoconferencing in lieu of travel would create a large negative impact to the airline industry if the technology was widely adopted and used. However, Lu and Peeta believed that there is a relationship between videoconferencing and air travel, and that they are not mutually exclusive. Lu and Peeta (2009) discovered that the use of air travel is for creating and establishing business relationships, and technology is used to enhance and maintain relationships.

Lu and Peeta (2009) found that the likelihood of videoconferencing to replace travel was higher than the opposite, for travel to substitute videoconferencing. They perceived that the meeting’s context was the critical decision factor on choosing the mode of communication, but did not get into specific contexts (Lu & Peeta, 2009). This substantiates Berry’s (2011) claim that there is still a need for face-to-face communication in businesses, and that the reasons behind the meeting drives the choices of spending money to travel.

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Gustafson (2012) stated that many factors are actually causing business travelers to increase air travel. Some of the reasons for more frequent travel include disbursement of work team, the increase of using consultants, increased project management, and growth of globalization (Gustafson, 2012). Another reason for an increase in business travel is the mobility of conducting business. Gustafson stated that technological advancements on making employees more mobile are a reason for increased air travel and not a limitation for business travelers. The business traveler is not there just to travel, but to conduct business as efficiently as possible for their organization (Gustafson, 2012). This is one of the reasons to assess the needs of the business traveler. Aguilera (2009) identified the need for the business traveler as a critical role in business. The strategic nature of organizations creates the fiber of the business traveler (Aguilera, 2009). Organizations are more global and meetings with partners involved with the business create a critical role for face-to-face communication, in addition to computer-assisted communication. Aguilera stated that the needs of the organization, which have made the worker more independent, have contributed to a flattening of the hierarchical organization.

According to Bhadra and Kee (2008), many factors affected air travel throughout 2001- 2011. These factors began with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which was followed by the concern of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), then came the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Bhadra & Kee, 2008). The authors noted that another element that reduced air travel was the adoption of videoconferencing.

Bhadra and Kee (2008) stated that the losses in air travel due to these events have totaled somewhere around $50 billion, and has forced major legacy carriers into bankruptcy. At the time that they conducted their study, commercial airlines had only begun to assess fees for luggage and other services. They predicted that with the state that the airlines were in at the time of their writing, these fees would continue to increase with the rising costs of jet fuel (Bhadra & Kee, 2008). Bhadra and Kee called for the airlines to become more strategic. This contributed to the current study to gain insight into business traveler’s needs.

Beaverstock, Derudder, Faulconbridge, and Witlox (2009) shed light on the fact that despite the rise of videoconferencing and real-time communication, business travel has actually grown. The authors argued that the need for face-to-face communication in business is still essential to building trust within relationships; many of the emerging technologies allow for more frequent communications, but do not eliminate the need for face-to-face encounters (Beaverstock et al., 2009). Beaverstock et al. argued that the need for seamless communication in the digital age has actually created the demand for more frequent face-to-face encounters as a more personal and meaningful forms of communication. The authors also described some reasons that require business travel: sales, training, trade fairs and attending conventions (Beaverstock et al., 2009).

Beaverstock et al. (2009) observed that most business travelers do suffer in their workload from being away from the office, despite the mobility of today’s office space. Even

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though the airline and hotels have tried to give the business traveler the tools to maintain productivity, there is still a loss of this productivity when traveling. Beaverstock et al. praised the mobility of the office space. Due to wireless hot spots, work environments can be located in airports, hotels, coffee shops, aircraft cabins, and even the back of a limousine.

Millar and Salt (2008) defined a variety of business travel due to length of travel time. Most people that are business travelers (30 day travel rotation or less) have increasing pressure of maintaining a stricter budget (Millar & Salt, 2008). During the time that they published this study in 2008, the United States was suffering an economic downturn. According to Business Travel Trends (2009), many organizations cut back their business travel expenses in response to the 2008 economic crisis. This caused an increase in alternate forms of real-time communication for business to be conducted (Business Travel Trends, 2009). Business travelers anticipated budgets to only slightly increase when the economy recovered, due to the ability to get work achieved by other communication methods. The needs of the business traveler must be met during the travel experience, and this study seeks to discover if that is being accomplished.

Boetsch, Bieger, and Wittmer (2011) conducted a study on the importance of the customer-value framework on how it applies to business travelers who are choosing an airline. The findings showed that airline brand loyalty is the major factor for choice, but other factors including journey time, price, service and features were all considered to play a role in the business traveler’s decision-making process (Boetsch et al., 2011). The emotional factors at play in decision-making for an airline relies heavily on brand image and past experience (Boetsch et al., 2011). This contributes to this study because some airlines have already adopted in-flight technology to help make business travelers more productive. This could have a significant impact on choice of airline for business travel, but needs to be further studied.

Wickham and Vecchi (2009) sought to reveal a gap in the literature by describing the need for business travel and information technology to be studied as drivers of globalization. The authors identified several clusters of individuals in the work environment. Among these clusters of people were those who sought out the socialization of face-to-face interaction, which meant air travel for business professionals (Wickham & Vecchi, 2009). Results indicated that a number of people traveling for business did have a high level of mobility support from the use of technology, which kept them connected to their offices and homes (Wickham & Vecchi, 2009). Based on number of business travelers, face-to-face communication is a priority for certain organizations (Wickham & Vecchi, 2009). This study took place in Dublin and further consideration needs to be applied to the United States. With budget constraints and the rising costs of flying in the United States, business travelers need to describe when travel is a necessity of the job.

Haynes (2010) showed the interdependencies of communication-assisted technology and business travel. Hayes evaluated international business travel based out of Dublin, Ireland. Hayes showed that despite the predictions that communication-assisted technology would decrease business travel, the opposite was shown.

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In an attempt to find the reason behind the growing business travel trend, Hayes (2010) felt that data were insufficient to gather exact reasons and implications of the rise in mobile workers. However, Hayes cited the need for face-to-face communication as a contributing factor. The author also discovered that with the growth of the Internet, more relationships and partnerships were possible, thus creating the need for more business travel (Hayes, 2010).

Hayes (2010) mentioned that one result of computer-assisted technology is that it has influenced changes in business travel patterns. Business executives are beginning to use computer-assisted communication for certain daily functions, and travel is used for growth, partnerships, or new market opportunities. Hayes also discovered in the research that within the company surveyed, teleconferencing was more preferred than videoconferencing. This could be another reason why participants of this study did not see communication-assisted technology as a good substitute or alternative to face-to-face communication.

Hayes (2010) noted that the respondents felt as though videoconferencing was more difficult to set up and manage than teleconferencing. Echoing a finding earlier in the literature, Hayes stated that workers viewed travel as less productive, resulting in more work upon their return to the office. Hayes added a significant foundation to this study. There seems to be a lack of clarity on when United States business professionals travel or use communication-assisted technology. I sought to reduce that gap.

Using Technology to Communicate in Business

Communication is seen as one of the most important parts of a successful business (Bardia, 2010). A person that can communicate effectively in the fast-paced business culture is an asset to the organization (Bardia, 2010). An employee has to be able to use all forms of communication to good effect. Advances in communication technology have created a necessity for employees to be able to communicate anywhere, especially while traveling.

According to Neera, Anjanee, and Shoma (2010), the three major challenges facing leaders in business today are globalization, liberalization, and technology. Technology is changing the way that people work. Palakeel (2011) suggested that this shift of communication technology has influenced the nature of communication in such a drastic way, that it has become a language in itself. The influence technology has had on communication has shifted culture, society and language (Palakeel, 2011).

Majumdar et al. (2010) observed that the variety of technologies in communication is increasing dramatically while costs are relatively low. Businesses are taking advantage of these technologies to harness the knowledge of their employees throughout the world (Neera et al., 2010). Celuch and Murphy (2010) stated that the power of technology as a communications medium for both internal and external organizational use helps organizations to gain competitive advantage. Technology-based communication has become one of the most powerful market- sensing tools that an organization can have (Celuch & Murphy, 2010).

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The nature of business has become diffused from the workplace and has spread to the mobile office. Businesses currently rely heavily on mobile email and other web-based collaborative software to make workers more productive in the field (Basole, 2008). Companies are rapidly adopting these technological advances, helping both the business traveler and the company itself. Outfitting workers with a laptop and smart phone are commonplace, and seen as positive in the work environment (Basole, 2008).

People find comfort in working in their own surroundings, as well as feeling more trusted and empowered by their employers (Boule, 2008). Work teams are dispersed across geography, time zones, and cultures in the business environment, creating the necessity for virtual teams (Berry, 2011). Technology-based communications help organizations to be productive despite this disbursement. Gone are the days where people are required to sit face-to-face to conduct business. Although there are still advantages to meeting physically, it is no longer a necessity.

Connors (2009) argued that businesses are losing a personal connection from the lack of face-to-face communication, as people are moving toward using more technology such as email, SMS, texting, instant messaging, videoconferencing and social networks. But as organizations keep moving forward with global efforts, these communication channels are becoming ingrained into everyday business. Berry (2011) observed that workers do not even have to be displaced from one another to be a virtual team. Workers can choose to participate in a virtual team when in the same building, as they may not need or want to meet face-to face.

With advances in the communication technology, many workers have found that they feel more comfortable creating relationships and communicating openly using computer-based communication. Santra and Giri (2009) discovered that individuals who used computer-based, or asynchronous, communication were more productive. The debate between using synchronous and asynchronous communication in the business place has been going on since the debut of computer-based communication technology. Synchronous communication occurs face-to-face, while asynchronous occurs through email, texting, or videoconferencing (Santra & Giri, 2009). Communication technology has helped businesses become more productive, communicate more frequently, and make stronger working relationships (Santra & Giri, 2009). Teams throughout the world are dispersed and asked to work together on what is considered a virtual team. These teams work toward a common goal but are displaced from each other, either through choice, skill-set, outsourcing, or contracting. These virtual teams typically operate without ever meeting face-to-face, but rather through asynchronous, computer-facilitated communication. In a study conducted by Schweitzer and Duxbury (2010), these virtual teams were found to be very productive, with only some minor indicators that they could be more productive face-to-face.

For small businesses, with smaller budgets, it is becoming more common for teams to work as part of a virtual team, so it is critical that they still see themselves to be effective in their work. Berry (2011) warned that with any team, expectations and outcomes must be made clear.

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The danger of this occurring with virtual teams is just as likely as with any team communication, but with virtual teams it could take longer for misunderstandings to surface (Berry, 2011).

Trust is built on communicating information (Thomas, Zolin, & Hartman, 2009). The communication of this information can be facilitated either through face-to-face or technology- assisted encounters. Thomas et al. concluded that it is a matter of the frequency and quality of information, rather than the medium. Through Chen and Wellman’s (2009) research, a group of entrepreneurs sought to discover which means of communication was most valued. In the conclusion, Chen and Wellman realized that both forms help maintain strong relationships and keep them strong. An interesting find of their research did conclude however, that the majority of business is still considered local, where face-to-face communication is more possible (Chen & Wellman, 2009).

Anderson and Patterson (2010) also studied the difference in computer-assisted and face- to-face communication to see if there was an impact on fairness judgment and levels of trust. They concluded that there were factors that were not included to accurately predict an overall trend. A person’s personal preference in communications was a large factor (Anderson & Patterson, 2010). It was noted that negative feedback through face-to-face communication could sometimes be more appropriate than through computer-assisted communication (Anderson & Patterson, 2010). This is worth noting, due to the fact that some business travelers may find it important to engage in face-to-face communication when a negative outcome is at risk.

Lassen (2009) suggested that the ability of knowledge workers to use video-conferencing more effectively should eliminate the need for most business travel. However, in Lassen’s findings, social perspective and preference were two large factors that play into the firm’s choice for business travel. The need for knowledge workers to form networks and share knowledge between one another to help facilitate work and resolve problems is a primary motivator to travel (Lassen, 2009). This created a substantial meaning around face-to-face meetings to be able to broaden the employee’s network and facilitate networking (Lassen, 2009).

In Lassen’s (2009) study, the need for employees to socialize was a clear motivating factor for business travel. Lassen also described the importance of virtual or technology-assisted communication as a tool to maintain networks. The author stated that these tools are useful in addition to travel, because it alleviates stress from the worker (Lassen, 2009). Lassen showed however, that workers usually prefer face-to-face communication for assurance and a better response. Lassen stated that workers often have personal reasons for travel, especially when the destination is international. For example, workers enjoy the experience of international travel for a break in the routine from life, or to experience another culture.

Lassen (2009) concluded that video-conferencing and technology communication is more applicable when tasks are straightforward and there is little room for interpretation. This finding contributes to this study by assessing when American’s feel that business travel is necessary or can be facilitated by technological communication. Lassen completed this study in Denmark,

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and the need for workers in the United States to be assessed for these needs is critical to eliminate gaps in the field.

Millar and Salt (2008) also wrote about the adaptation of virtual mobility, or computer- assisted communication, having an impact on business travel. They found that cost reduction was not a primary factor in choosing a virtual collaboration tool, but rather the main reasons for using them included virtual communications as a tool that could be used for weekly progress reports, or simple tasks (Millar & Salt, 2008). The authors also considered the reasons for virtual meeting spaces as a way to help others feel involved in the decision making process, and as a substitution for travel when meeting face-to-face was not seen as a necessity (Millar & Salt, 2008). Millar and Salt outlined that business travel was a cross-functional organizational undertaking. Professions of the people who travel, and their reasons, vary widely.

The examples that Millar and Salt (2008) described give a basis for the breakdown of the selection of participants to this study. Millar and Salt mentioned that marketing and sales, operations and production, and company supported roles, like information technology individuals, might all have reasons to become business travelers. This adds value to this study by outlining the cross-organizational mix that has been selected for study.

Technology-assisted communications, such as group emails, could bring everyone on the same ground to where they felt as though their voices could be heard equally (Bathelt & Turi, 2011). They stated that decisions reached via technology-assisted communication were at times riskier for the organization (Bathelt & Turi, 2011). The authors concluded that there were strengths and weaknesses to both sides of communicating and more exploration might be needed (Bathelt & Turi, 2011). This contributes to this study by illustrating another reason to find out from business travelers when they feel that face-to-face communications is a necessity.

Daim et al. (2012) conducted a study in which they noted problem areas for virtual teams. The authors identified five problem areas that could hinder group communications. These areas were trust, interpersonal relations, cultural differences, leadership, and technology (Daim et al., 2012). Daim et al. stated that a face-to-face meeting in the beginning was crucial to establish trust and relationships. After that, the work group was then geographically dispersed throughout the rest of the study. The authors noted that as time went on trust began to deteriorate and interpersonal relations were not fostered within work groups (Daim et al., 2012).

Another barrier to effective communication was the team’s culturally diverse group. There were several instances of miscommunication or a lack of understanding due to cultural differences from the research that was collected (Daim et al., 2012). Leadership was another factor that the authors noted could be an issue. If the leader did not manage communication, like asking for feedback and acknowledgement of understanding, the work group suffered (Daim et al., 2012). Technology was the last communication weakness that was studied. It was noted that the choice of technology-assisted communication had a large impact on the success of the team (Daim et al., 2012). The authors recommended using multiple methods to communicate to insure that everyone had opportunities to have input to the situation (Daim et al., 2012). Overall,

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the authors concluded that if these factors were properly managed, then technology-assisted communication could be very effective for virtual teams. This is pertinent to this study to gain insight that computer-assisted technology for some work is a viable and often used alternative to air travel.

Lowden and Hostetter (2012) conducted a study to determine if videoconferencing had the same effect on social presence as face-to-face communication has. The authors determined that many of the participants did feel satisfied with the experience of videoconferencing, but admitted that there were certain situations that it might be too impersonal (Lowden & Hostetter, 2012). One of their recommendations for further study included a qualitative analysis to identify these situations and factors. This information is one of the desired outcomes of this study.

Räsänen, Moberg, Picha, and Borggren (2010) studied the reasons why videoconferencing can and does work for business purposes. Even though the researchers admitted that there are occasions that a meeting should be held in person, they also state that discovering these occasions were not among their objectives (Räsänen et al., 2010). However, they did shed light on the need to use computer-assisted communication instead of traveling. The authors expressed a high concern for the environment and stress on the employee as factors to reduce business travel (Räsänen et al., 2010). The authors claimed that employee training and technology support could be factors in better preparing employees for technology-assisted communication practices (Räsänen et al., 2010). While Räsänen et al.’s perspective on the use of computer-assisted communication is a different perspective on the effects of business travel, the authors conclude that they hope to just impact the literature by bringing the case that companies should consider alternatives over travel.

Okdie, Guadagno, Bernieri, Geers, and Mclarney-Vesotski (2011) asked if people preferred face-to-face communication instead of computer-mediated communication. The researchers discovered that overall; the face-to-face experience was more pleasant and led to an increased likeability of the other person (Okdie et al., 2011). In a study by Michinov and Michinov (2008) about online collaboration in distance education, the researchers also wanted to discover the need for face-to-face communication. The researchers discovered that the less face- to-face communication that the learners had with one another, the more likelihood there would be problems and miscommunication (Michinov & Michinov, 2008). When the researchers increased the amount of face-to-face communication among the groups, there were better learning results from the participants involved (Michinov & Michinov, 2008). This supports the need for business travelers to communicate face-to-face for business relationship development.

An important distinction to be made is that one form of communication does not eliminate the use of another (Lo & Lie, 2008). Through the adoption of new technologies, old technology has not ceased to be used however there is a choice on channels of communication (Lo & Lie, 2008). Lo and Lie proposed that the choice of communication relied on the factors of trust in the other party and the extent of how media rich the information needed to be for understanding. They discovered that when trust with the other party was lower, if it was a newer

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relationship or there was a past communication failure, the richness of the media had to be more intensive (Lo & Lie, 2008). This caused more business partners to choose to use the telephone, opt for a face-to-face meeting or use videoconferencing. This could be applied to this study as a potential theme that could be explored in the reasons why business travelers might opt to travel, as opposed to using computer assisted communication. The authors also noted, however, that email was seen as very low on the media richness scale (Lo & Lie, 2008). This could be a significant finding due to the fact that the perceptions of email might change according to the user. When business professionals experience a large number of emails, the chances of clear communication could dissolve.

Hill, Bartol, Tesluk, and Langa (2009) conducted a study to also gain insight into trust and collaboration through face-to-face and computer-mediated interactions. Hill et al. discovered that when placed in either a competitive or a collaborative situation, people responded differently in face-to-face or computer-mediated communication. They discovered that trust and collaboration were higher in the collaborative face-to-face environment (Hill et al., 2008). They also noted a decline in collaboration and competitiveness in the computer-mediated environment (Hill et al., 2009). Hill et al. concluded that, even in a competitive setting, a face- to-face interaction is important. This is an interesting discovery on the dynamics of competitive human behavior. This study contributes to furthering the concept that business travelers might need to travel for other reasons than collaboration, which could be an emerging trend in the data. Due to innovative technologies, the physical workplace has changed (Mackenzie, 2010). An employee might arrive at an office to work, but most of their work is communicated through use of computer technologies. This change has led to the concern of virtual teams and employee satisfaction to become every organization’s concern, not those that communicate strictly in a virtual environment (Mackenzie, 2010).

Mackenzie (2010) revealed several perception gaps between the employees and the managers of organizations pertaining to developing good working relationships. The data revealed that the manager’s knew that communicating face-to-face was important for building work relationships and trust with employees, but communicated more digitally (Mackenzie, 2010). Employees stated that they desired more face-to-face interaction with their managers, but felt that the expectations to communicate digitally were higher (Mackenzie, 2010). This research could lead to potential themes that could emerge as to why business travelers might consider travel for certain reasons versus computer mediated communication. The travelers could be visiting employees or employees could be meeting with their managers.

Motivation-Opportunity-Ability Framework

The MOA framework related to how consumers interact with product purchase decisions

through the motivation the consumers felt, the opportunity to obtain the item and the ability of the consumer to purchase (MacInnis & Jaworski, 1989). Maclnnis, Moorman, and Jaworski

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(1991) gave the framework attributes that companies could use in execution strategies. One of the elements that applied to this study is the ability for commercial airlines to effectively communicate services by educating the consumer on what they have to offer (cognition processing). This could be communicated by advertisements or by word-of-mouth strategies.

Through the MOA, commercial airlines must create a motivation for business travelers to be interested in what services they have to offer. Through communicating these services effectively, opportunity for the business traveler to become educated or realize the benefits in these services must occur. This is difficult when the target audience is in a high state of mobility. The ability for the business traveler to realize these benefits is high, due to the frequent amount of travel that the person experiences. Applying this framework to the business traveler is a crucial element for airlines to communicate the benefits that they offer.

PARTICIPANTS

The participants were business travelers that were in the process of traveling for work by commercial airline transportation. This was to capture the participants in the phenomenon, to better assess their lived experiences (Creswell, 2008). The interviews took place in the airport, while participants were waiting on a flight or upon arrival to the area. Even though the population was located at the Atlanta-Jackson International Airport for the interview process, this did not fully limit the study to that geographical location. The participants could have been based anywhere in the world, as it is an international airport, and a main hub for many airline connections.

The purposive sampling technique was the research design for this study. For this study, the population was separated into four categories of those that might travel for business: sales/marketing, operations/manufacturing, consulting/outsourcing, and company based support (human resources, information technology, purchasing, finance and training). Five participants were interviewed in each category, as well as divided up to represent three industries: product, service, or retail/distribution. This required 60 interviews total to obtain the sample size that was needed. Bernard (2000) defined the qualitative sample size to be between 15-60 participants to establish themes and an accurate reflection of the phenomenon.

RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY Reliability

With any qualitative study, monitoring the data for reliability is critical. Creswell (2008)

identified areas to watch for mistakes with data collection and analysis. First, Creswell recommended that the transcriptions of the data be checked for errors that could have occurred during the transcription process. Next, the researcher must make sure that participant codes are

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consistent (Creswell, 2008). Creswell also stated that the importance of the researcher being consistent to each participant creates reliability. I was reviewed prior to conducting the interviews by three doctoral business professors who had expertise in gathering, interpreting, and overseeing data for reliability and validity.

Validity

This study was validated using several qualitative techniques. The first was my own

admission of any bias prior to the study. Another was the use of the software NVivo 9 to maintain that data were interpreted with a computer-assisted formula, as well as researcher interpretation. Another form of validity that was used was the strict adherence to the steps described in the modified Van Kaam method for data analysis (Moustakas, 1994). These steps included: listing and preliminary grouping of the data, reduction and elimination of inapplicable data, clustering and thematizing the data into core themes that emerge, final identification and application of the data, creating individualized experiences for the participants, analyzing based on individual description and imaginative variation, and finally, constructing an analysis of the themes and essences to capture an analysis of the phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994).

RESULTS

There is an ongoing debate in the literature and by professional practitioners on the best way to communicate in the business world. While people are still traveling for business needs, the purposes have changed and communication methods have been altered after the economic downturn in 2008. While many people still argue that face-to-face communication is preferred in the business world (Santra & Giri, 2009), others believe that there is now a combination of both face-to-face and using computer mediated technology (Celuch & Murphy, 2010). This study provided an exploration in to why business travelers are still traveling via commercial airline, how they communicate when they travel, and how they communicate when they are not traveling. The findings were significant in giving insight to why business workers are traveling and how they are communicating.

The research findings indicated that travel via commercial airlines was still deemed a necessity in the business world. The main purposes for travel were training and face-to-face meetings with clients or coworkers. The findings also indicated that business professionals still see communication as a vital process through the use of email and smart phones. Email was identified as the preferred method for communication when traveling, and when remaining in the home office. Other trends were identified for communication purposes, but to a lesser degree.

Fifty-eight participants expressed the need to be connected to the office, and the expectation of being productive in the workplace while traveling. Computer-assisted communication, paired with face-to-face communication, represented the last major finding.

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Business people indicated that a combination of methods allowed for successful communication in the workplace, while traveling and not.

PRESENTATION OF THE FINDINGS

The research question that was used to guide this study was: Why do business travelers

choose to travel versus using emerging technologies? I investigated the motivations behind business travel from business people via commercial airlines. The subquestions used to explore further were:

1. Why would an employee travel for business instead of using a number of emerging

technologies for communicating? 2. What technologies do business travelers use when traveling, and which ones would help

make them more productive? 3. What technologies do business travelers use instead of choosing to travel, and what are

the reasons behind this?

Sixty participants were selected to participate based on their occupation and job industry, as noted in the table below.

Table 1 Participant Data

Job Type Product Company Service Company Retail/Distribution sales/marketing 5 5 5 operations/manufacturing 5 5 5 consulting/outsourcing services 5 5 5 company-based support: Information technology/human resources/purchasing/finance/training

5 5 5

The data that was gathered were audio-recorded and then transcribed. These transcribed interviews were then imported into NVivo 9 software and analyzed for potential themes. These themes were then cross-referenced with Moustakas’s (1994) modified van Kaam method of deduction for emerging themes.

The data, after reduction and clustering themes, revealed five major themes: (a) the reliance on email for communication, (b) the necessity of traveling for training, (c) the importance of having a smart phone when traveling, (d) the use of technologies to communicate, coupled with face-to-face communication, and (e) the use of computers to facilitate work and communication when traveling and when not.

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Theme 1: The Reliance on Email for Communication Email was the most frequently brought up mode of communication. This is an example of computer-mediated communication. Participants made several supporting statements from using the method of email in both positive and negative ways. One of the primary needs for email was that there was a record of what was discussed. The following are some supporting statements made by participants.

 Email. Record, mostly that I have a record. Bad thing in management these days is you get into a style of managing with email. (P415)

 I like email. Fast and easy and there is always something concrete you can go back and look at. (P215)

 My computer, Email, Just leaves an electronic trail of what you have done. (P224)  To document things, to have it in writing. (P422)  Faster and efficient and you get document proof of everything that has happened. (P424)  Other participants made a case for email, just stating its practicality. The following are

supporting statements to document the practicality of email.  Email is quicker. (P122)  Email. It’s just easier, faster, wastes less time. (P115)  I have everyone’s contact information saved on my phone for email so I can easily reach

out to them. (P124)

Theme 2: The Necessity of Traveling for Training A majority of the participants indicated that they were traveling for training purposes for their company. This was a major finding due to the discovery of when companies are still finding a reason for people to travel for business purposes. Some participants stated that they could not perform the training through computer-mediated technology and that it needed to be hands on. Here are some statements that gave an insight for traveling for training purposes.

 It’s more efficient to be in person due to multiple meetings and the need to observe people training other individuals and provide feedback. (P121)

 Well, for this particular case, for my business travel is basically for some business training and the training is conducted in a group environment, that isn’t necessarily conducive to any of the technologies that are out there. (P131)

 I’m traveling with a surgeon that actually needs to do the hands on training with the technology. (P132)

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 For training, I was traveling to a location for using simulators for work. Those are multimillion dollar machines so you have to travel to them. (P225)

 It was a, we were traveling for training. And for this training it really, it helped to be in person doing the training. (P314)

Theme 3: The Importance of Having a Smart Phone When Traveling The major tool of choice for today’s business traveler seemed to be their smart phone. Smart phones are web-enabled for Internet and email delivery through cell phone providers. The portability of the smart phone seemed to make this device a travel necessity for today’s business professionals. Here are some statements that supported the need for having a smart phone with them when traveling.

 I certainly use my phone; I do use the Internet quite a bit for email. I have a smart phone, so I have a Blackberry. So I do use email on my phone, and then when I can get to a club or to an airport where there’s Internet service I’ll usually follow up with my laptop. I have a GPS, so I use, I rely on that frequently because I’m usually travelling to meet customers. And within the laptop I often use Skype, • I use WebEx, so video conferencing, and plain old telephones. (P111)

 I’d have to say the iPhone right now. Because I don’t have a portable computer. This trip it was mostly texting. (P114)

 Mainly my iPhone and my laptop, but mainly my iPhone. (P223)  When I’m on the road? Definitely the iPhone. Mostly email, email for sure, and WebEx.

The WebEx app. (P235)  Basically my iPhone, that is all I have. I don’t really need anything else. (P423)

Theme 4: The use of Technologies to Communicate, Coupled With Face-to-Face Communication Another major finding was that business travelers used a variety of methods to communicate with their clients and coworkers. This finding supported the theme from the literature review that business people see the value in choosing which technology to communicate with, depending on the need or desired outcome (Santra & Giri, 2009). The following statements from participants indicate that they use several different modes of communication.

 We had a face-to-face meeting with our rep agency, so it was something that required a face-to-face contact versus, you know, we use technology a lot actually. Day to day, but

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certain times of the year, we find it very beneficial to just still have that human contact. (P112)

 We usually do all of those things, but I have to go look at a physical site. So I have to travel to the site. (P232)

 Um, in most cases the company that I work for encourages other uses of technology besides travel in most instances, this one just happened to be not really much of a choice to go for the training. (P231)

 Obviously face-to-face is important to establish if you’re a team, kind of thing. But it’s nice to, you know when you’re in these virtual groups now you always work with people that aren’t necessarily in the same city so being able to be on the phone can be very effective. Especially with webcasts and stuff. (P312)

 Yes, most of it is done through email. Because I’m dealing with, I guess, owners throughout the country. So the easiest form is usually email, on occasion phones but most of it is done through email or web conferencing. (P425)

Theme 5: The use of Computers to Facilitate Work and Communication When Traveling and When not

When asked about the need to be productive when traveling and when not, the

participants indicated that having a laptop computer with them was a vital staple when traveling. Many participants indicated that they were traveling with laptop computers and used them frequently for communication purposes and to continue working while traveling. Here are some statements to support this finding.

 It is nice to have everything here together in one spot, but when I am home, I am on the

computer and the iPhone is secondary at that time. (P133)  I would definitely say my computer. I think the, yeah I think the iPhones, the iPhones are

great to keep in touch with, email flows. But I think productivity tends to lack because you can get distracted from apps and other things and I know if I’m on my work computer I’m going to stay focused and not worry about other things. (P234)

 It would make it more… we have a lot of security on our software for our computers and phones and so I don’t actually have like a company phone where I can do work on my phone. So that would be something that could make it more productive when I travel. It’s a lot easier than pulling out a laptop and looking it up in the airport or, you know in the hotel room. (P411)

The first theme was the reliance on email for communication in today’s business world.

This finding supports that employees must have competent written communication skills to be successful in today’s business environment (Jones, 2011). Through the findings of this study,

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email is the method of choice when it comes to business communication for a number of reasons that the participants gave. Employers should gain examples of an employee’s written communication skills prior to offering them a job.

The next finding was the necessity of traveling for training. This finding is applicable for the business world that invests a great deal of money into maintaining the education level of their employees. According to Mohamed, Rasli, and Mansor (2012) the amount of funds that companies place on training in the business environment is expected to generate a return on investment for the organization. This investment into the employee’s training is still viewed by organizations as being an imperative investment. This finding supports that organizations are still viewing training of employees as being a critical element for employee success and will help grow the organization.

The next finding is that employees find that having a smart phone when traveling is highly important. Many participants expressed that they could have access to email, calling features, text features, and internet data in the palm of their hands. This finding supports that workers are becoming better equipped and proficient in a mobile environment. Organizations should view this finding in a positive way, and in a negative one.

While the worker is maintaining productivity while out of the office, the temptation for work to invade the employee’s personal time is a threat. This could impact employee work performance and job satisfaction if they feel that they are always at work. However, the positives of having a smart phone while traveling seemed to please the participants that had one and used it often. They cited that they used applications for directions and other productivity tools that smart phones have to offer.

The next major finding was the use of technologies to communicate, coupled with face- to-face communication. Participants seemed to agree that they use a variety of ways to communicate for business. They use email, video-conferencing, instant messaging, group messaging, conference calls and face-to-face communication. This finding supported Celuch and Murphy’s (2010) ideas that there is rational that one must look at when deciding how the communication method must rely on the message being conveyed. Several participants supported this finding that some messages are better conveyed face-to-face or through a phone conversation than through computer-mediated communication tactics. This could benefit employers by helping employees better understand their company culture when messages might be used for certain communication methods.

The final finding was the use of computers to facilitate work and communication when traveling and when not. Participants described that they are still expected to have a level of productivity of their workload while traveling. For many participants, this meant carrying a laptop computer with them to stay connected to the work environment. This finding shows that the mobility of workers is important to the employer, as well as the employees.

A few participants stated that they had to stay productive, because upon returning to the office they would have too much of a workload to handle. Many participants also expressed that

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the laptops they were using were purchased and issued by the company. This should help employers better strategize toward a mobile workforce and future purchasing of technological capabilities for the worker.

APPLICATIONS TO PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

The applications for these findings for professional practice are significant. The specific

problem addressed in this study was to seek when business travelers were still traveling via commercial airlines for business purposes. Traveling for training purposes was a significant finding that relates back to the problem statement. This application helps support the reasons behind business travel via commercial airlines. This could, in turn, help the airline and hospitality industries target business travel for training purposes.

The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the lived experiences of how business people are communicating when they are traveling and when they are not. The findings support the modes of communication that are used are face-to-face and computer-mediated communication. This is an application to the professional practice because business people must be flexible to communicate in both written and oral communication.

Recommendations for Action

The findings of this study are important for all organizations. Human Resource personnel

should pay particular attention to the need for training within the organization. Organizations with sales forces or contractors should pay particular attention to the results of having a fully mobile-equipped work force. Computer-mediated communication is critical for today’s business personnel and human resources should look at effective writing skills as being a critical hiring factor. When it comes to better equipping business travelers, businesses should look at engaging in contracts for smart phones and laptops to help their employees remain effective while on business traveling purposes. These results should be published in a variety of trade journals, for example business and human resource focused journals, to help organizations gain an insight to today’s mobile traveler.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY

There were some issues that came up that could use closer examination and further study.

The need to look at the personal habit of worker’s with smart phones was one that should be looked into for further study. Business professionals that have access to their email and work at all times could have issues of maintaining a work-life balance. This should be explored for employee satisfaction and employee retention purposes.

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Another point for further study is the use of video-conferencing and computer-mediated communication effectiveness in organizations where their workforce is not able to travel for business purposes. Measuring the effectiveness and knowledge base against a comparable company that uses frequent business travel would be interesting in discovering similarities and differences in productivity.

Summary and Study Conclusions

I identified the lived experiences in how business travelers via commercial airlines are

using computer-mediated communication. The themes discovered by the data were the uses of both computer-mediated communication for business and face-to-face communication. Through the use of the Moustakas (1994) modified Van Kaam method and NVivo 9 qualitative software the major themes identified were: (a) the reliance on email for communication, (b) the necessity of traveling for training, (c) the importance of having a smart phone when traveling, (d) the use of technologies to communicate, coupled with face-to-face communication, and (e) the use of computers to facilitate work and communication when traveling and when not.

The insight of these themes on business travelers can help guide businesses in human resource planning and employee training investments. Human capital in organizations is often seen as one of the strategic factors of the business firm. This study helped support that belief, and helped solidify the reasons behind employee travel via commercial airlines.

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