How to Hire a Corporate Travel ManagerBy Mike Baker
Your corporate travel program won’t manage itself — how can you bring in the perfect person for the job?
You’ve gotten this far without a “real” corporate travel manager. Maybe your Executive Assistant or someone in HR or accounting has been trying to oversee business travel along with the rest of their job. Or maybe your employees have been handling their own travel arrangements, completely independent of one another.
You’ve got chaos, frazzle, frustration, and spending gone wild. Every day that passes you’re losing more time, creating extra work, and sacrificing visibility into your travel spend. It’s time to go pro.
It’s one thing to admit your company needs someone to help manage corporate travel, but what skills should you be hiring for? How should you go about finding the right person? Every company is unique, so you want someone who is both travel-savvy and a great cultural fit for your team.
But before you dive into the recruitment and interview process, you should ask yourself a few questions to help you nail down exactly what you’re looking for.
Why are you hiring someone?
Clearly, you need help, but what specifically do you expect to accomplish by bringing this new person on board?
- Relieve employees of booking burden
- Refine budgeting
- Control and forecast spending
- Provide assistance for traveling employees
- Streamline expense reporting
- Get better rates or more perks for travelers
- (Finally) create a corporate travel policy
You need goals in order to hire the right person.
What tasks will they perform?
The list of potential responsibilities and activities of a corporate travel manager is very long. But that doesn’t mean you want or need this person to do all those things. In order to create a clear, accurate (and enticing) job description, you’ll need to narrow the list to fit your company. Think about future needs, too, since we know you expect your company to continue growing!
Hint: As you consider all the things your new travel honcho could be doing, ask yourself what’s really important – for your business as well as for your travelers. For example, you could have your corporate travel manager make all the booking arrangements, but why? That’s a waste of time when you could be using corporate travel management software for that instead.
But, as we said earlier, the technical skills and responsibilities are just half of the equation. The other half is about finding the right fit for your company’s culture.
So, what personal profile are you looking for?
Goals define what you expect your travel manager to accomplish. Tasks identify how you anticipate they will carry out their work. But what about the personality traits and skills that will make this person successful? Focus on the key skills they will need to elevate your company’s travel experience:
- Budgeting – even if your finance department sets the budget, they need guidance from someone who understands what constitutes realistic spending for key services such as hotels, flights, ground transportation, etc.
- Negotiation – one of the best ways to control costs is to negotiate better deals with hotels and airlines, whether that comes in the form of discounted rates or more (or more pertinent) traveler amenities. That takes industry-specific knowledge as well as confident bargaining skills.
- Compliance – we’re talking about legalities of corporate duty of care, but also the ability to secure employee compliance with travel policies.
- Organization – with travelers off in every direction at any time, only a well-organized person can stay on top of travel itself, let alone overseeing back-end essentials such as gathering expense receipts and “liaising” with other departments.
- Data analysis – financial data is critical for budget management, but it takes far broader statistics to comprehensively evaluate your travel program. Knowing why, where and how often your team travels facilitates sharper forecasting and better overall business planning.
- Communication – all parties involved need to know why the company has a travel policy, where to find it, how to use it, and what’s new when things change.
And let’s not forget tech-savviness! We live in a digital world, and smart corporate travel managers know that the right tech tools can simplify processes, help travelers get on their way, and dramatically improve post-travel expense management and financial analysis.
Will you consider remote work?
With digital technology available for travel management as well as virtually every other business function, a remote corporate travel manager might be just as successful as someone sitting in the office next door. After all, your traveling employees are “remote” by definition when they’re on the go. Willingness to go virtual opens the door to many more prospective candidates, but is it right for you?
Can you hire from within?
Chances are, you need an experienced professional to organize and upgrade your corporate travel program. But maybe that person who’s been your de facto manager up till now has acquired enough experience and interest that they’d like to move up and take this on as a career move. Just a thought.
Where to post the job?
LinkedIn, your company’s website and Facebook page are good places to start. You can try the big-name national job search sites, but if your company belongs to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) or other industry organizations, they often have job boards, too.
Involve the whole gang in interviews
Well, not the whole gang. But definitely include at least one rep from every department touched by travel in your organization, as well as a couple of frequent travelers. Their diverse perspectives are all critical to choosing the right person. Your corporate travel program will fail unless everyone works together smoothly. That takes leadership and relationship skills as well as industry know-how.
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