8 Tips for Busy Travel ManagersBy Jeanne Hopkins
Managing travel can be a time suck. Here's how to simplify the process.
One thing you can say about every travel manager’s job, it’s never boring.
Whether managing your company’s travel program is your primary job or you’re an Executive Assistant who oversees corporate travel along with myriad other responsibilities, you’re busy!
You’ve sharpened your time management skills, but there are many aspects of travel management that can steal time without you even realizing it. Or, at least, the extent of it.
Every minute counts because corporate travel is expensive.
Saving time saves money, helping to reduce overall T&E spend. Taking steps to simplify and streamline your work not only improves your daily productivity, it can make trips more successful and less stressful for your travelers, too.
Here are 8 ways you can make the most of your travel management time.
1. Audit the time you spend on travel
Before you can make better use of your time, you have to know where it is going now.
An audit will give you accurate (and possibly shocking) answers. Time-wasting activities can be insidious because they are often important. You can’t just jettison them, but by following a formalized audit process, you can pinpoint problem areas.
Every day differs, so your audit should look at a longer term.
Calculating time spent on specific travel management activities over a month, quarterly, even annually will give you the most complete data, allowing you to see redundancies and other wasteful patterns.
Armed with this information, you can get rid of busywork and make significant improvements in your company’s travel planning and management processes.
If you’re already using a time tracking tool of some kind, go back through the history to calculate time spent on various tasks such as booking, traveler communications and assistance, and so on.
Get an even clearer picture by including time that accounting/finance personnel spend on travel-related activities, especially traveler expense monitoring and management.
Audit not only specific tasks and the time they require but processes, too – are there system improvements that can simplify or tighten workflows to save time and improve the travel experience?
No time tracking tool? That should be your first priority. You could make manual notes, but that takes time, too, and it won’t be as complete or accurate as a tech-based system.
2. Establish a corporate travel policy
Without designated guidelines, your travel program is a chaotic free-for-all, guaranteed to generate overspending and dissatisfaction as well as wasted time.
Well-crafted policies aim to control costs while providing the best possible work experience for travelers, travel managers and finance teams.
Here’s how to create guidelines people will actually follow. Once you’ve got it, make sure everyone knows about it so they can follow the rules.
3. Share your calendar
If you’re an EA, you may share a calendar tool with your boss, because you manage his or her schedule for everything including travel.
But calendar sharing that includes all your travelers makes it equally easy to book on their behalf as well. And if you need to communicate with someone while they’re away, you can easily find a good contact time.
Calendar and collaboration apps keep projects humming while some team members are on the go, too. Fortunately, these apps automatically correct for time zones, so you never have to do the conversion math.
4. Help travelers manage their away time
The less help road warriors need from you while they’re on the road, the more efficiently you can use your own time back at home base.
Tools and policies that allow them to plan and book trips on their own —easily and within guidelines — boost compliance and protect the travel budget, effectively eliminating two of a travel manager’s biggest headaches.
Mobile tools keep them connected, no matter where they are.
5. Use some of the time you save to gather feedback
Asking travelers and fellow admins how their part of the process could be further improved seems like an obvious move, but it bears repeating.
They know best what changes to policies, processes, or on-the-road details will make their part of the equation more efficient. Time spent gathering feedback is definitely time well spent!
6. Invest in corporate travel software
Nothing says “efficient” like technology that automates repetitive tasks and stores information for quick future reference.
For example, one of the biggest time-wasters (and you don’t need an audit to tell you this!) is tracking down personal preferences of individual travelers so you can book what they want.
Here at Lola.com, we’ve done the math, and we can tell you that employees spend an average of 20 minutes simply researching flight and hotel options, every time they take a trip.
What a waste! A corporate travel platform designed to serve all employees who deal with travel can boost efficiencies across the board.
It can streamline planning, booking, monitoring travelers on the road, expensing and comprehensive data capture and reporting.
What else wastes time, and lots of it?
Expense submissions and reimbursement.
You’re choking on paper and frustrated by delays and missing information. Eliminating these problems alone could have a transformative effect on your personal efficiency, let alone the company’s overall T&E picture.
With Lola.com, travel managers get real time itinerary and traveler tracking, and real time visibility into spending, too. You’ll have the data you need to work smarter now and continuously improve as time goes on.
7. Use your platform and processes to book visitor travel
In some organizations, travel managers are called upon to book travel for incoming dignitaries, high-profile job candidates, etc.
Using your corporate travel management platform for that – or, better yet, allowing these select outsiders to book for themselves using the platform – ensures trips will be convenient and comfortable guests but also cost-efficient for the company.
8. Worry not!
Along with everything else, travel managers have to deal with problems that arise while employees are on the road – everything from flight changes to personal emergencies.
Resolving problems quickly and effectively is critical, but it can mean you’re on call or interrupted at any time.
Travel management technology that includes traveler support features saves time and helps to uphold the company’s duty of care.
One final thought
That audit we recommended? Make that a regular exercise because things change. An annual or semi-annual review will help you work efficiently and keep processes from going askew.