How to Get Support For Your Corporate Travel ProgramBy Mike Baker
Any effective travel program needs organizational buy-in — here are 7 ways to get support for yours
Small and mid-size companies need to get a grip on employee travel, or it will become more and more unmanageable as your company grows. Well-constructed travel programs (backed by clear travel policies) help businesses control travel spend, provide clarity around guidelines, and offer clear processes for booking and expensing corporate travel. But without support even the best corporate travel programs are set up for failure.
Here are 7 tips for getting internal support for your travel program.
Getting buy-in is a matter of selling corporate travel management as a solution. There are multiple stakeholders within your company – we’re talking finance/accounting, HR, procurement, top leadership, and traveling employees. Each group has a different perspective on “corporate travel,” but when it comes to selling your program they all want to know one thing: what’s in it for me?
As the resident corporate travel expert/advocate, you’ll have to educate each group of stakeholders in some way. The better everyone understands the whole picture – how having a corporate travel program benefits the entire company as well as their niche – the easier it will be to get buy-in, for example:
- Finance gets tighter controls over spending and more accurate budget forecasting
- Executive assistants and travel managers save time through more consistent booking guidelines
- Travelers get more clarity around expensing and booking processes
But it’s not only about helping employees save time and understand the processes more clearly — it’s also about helping your business achieve its broader goals.2. Your corporate travel program has to support overall business goals
Top leadership wants to know how creating a travel policy will help achieve goals as well as solve problems. (And, not to be negative, but they also need to understand the kind of damage not having a policy can wreak.) With their support, it will be easier to get buy-in from others within the company. (Without it, you’re sunk.)
How does formalized travel management support business goals?
- Reduced (and predictable) expenses
- Meet legal duty of care for employees on the road
- Mitigate risks
- Real-time visibility and ongoing data collection that support more strategic decision-making
- Increased productivity for travelers on the road (which ensures better results for their efforts)
- Happier employees (which supports retention)
What are their travel-related concerns? Start with finance because managing the budget and curbing over-spending is the root of nearly all problems associated with travel (from the company’s perspective). Your CFO wouldn’t necessarily care about travelers going rogue on bookings if they weren’t going over budget. On the other hand, legal and HR worry about issues such as traveler safety.4. Consult with your travelers
Look to your traveling colleagues for help and support, too. In effect, they are your most important “audience,” because if you don’t get buy-in from them your plans will fly out the window. None of the other stakeholders in your business will get what they want or need from your corporate travel program. Policies that work for everyone are simple, relevant, and flexible.5. Insist on adopting travel technology
A simple, comprehensive app such as Lola addresses everybody’s needs in one place. For you as corporate travel manager, the technology frees you from the entire booking process without sacrificing visibility. Lola will alert you to each new booking, so you can give it a quick review. What does that mean in real terms? Well, instead of spending an average three days to organize a booking, Drift’s Experience Manager now spends just 10 minutes for review.
6. Spread the word
Once you get buy-in (way to go, by the way!), make sure everyone knows about it. Don’t just send a memo, flaunt your new policy, with lunch-and-learn sessions, break room posters, regular reminders.7. You don’t have to do this alone
Reach out to colleagues, to learn what’s working for them (or not) with their company’s travel program. Did they hit any snags in getting buy-in? How did they overcome those barriers? One of the best way to meet peers and become an ever-more-savvy corporate travel manager is to join relevant organizations and take advantage of their education and networking opportunities.
Keep their eyes on the prize
Getting initial buy-in from all the constituents is a great first step, but your work is not done. To retain that support, you’ll need to continually remind folks how travel management is, indeed, benefiting their work and the company’s goals. (Refer back to point #2, if needed.)
But there’s more. Things change, so your corporate travel program will always be a work in progress, otherwise it will quickly stagnate and be relegated to a back shelf. Don’t let it become another good idea gone by the wayside! The best way to reinforce awareness and buy-in is by regularly reviewing the details of your travel policies and usage.
Take advantage of both formal and informal opportunities for feedback, and be sure to include all the same folks you originally included in developing the program. You’ll not only keep everyone engaged, you’ll be able to continually refine your policies and processes. You’re demonstrating value – and that’s what people buy into.
Still need a corporate travel policy? Check out Lola's simple framework creating the right policy for your business.