The Pendulum Swings Both Ways
tl;dr: Why everyone’s a winner when you create traveler-friendly policies
A top-down approach to corporate travel – one that focuses primarily on controlling T&E spend -- will get you one thing: employees booking out of policy. You can’t simply create policies that are best for the company and expect employees to go along, because travelers have needs, too. If you want to build a travel program that inspires compliance, you need to create travel policies that take both sides into account.
In other words, the pendulum swings both ways. There are several steps you can take to create a win-win travel policy (catch our webinar about that here). One of the most important is identifying what matters most to those who are doing the traveling.
How Travelers Win
· Flexibility to book flights and hotels that work for them
· Convenience that saves time and money (for example, the cost of Ubers back and forth to a conference can wipe out any savings from booking a cheaper room farther away)
· Comfort and amenities -- lack of amenities and a good night’s sleep are frustrating, waste time and hinder productivity
· Safety -- one woman we know booked a cheap hotel in San Francisco and was “rewarded” with a space that wasn’t particularly clean, in a neighborhood that made her feel unsafe
· Consistent experience for all employees -- without clear guidelines, some travelers will go for the max with little restraint, others will over-economize to their own detriment, and real or perceived inequalities lead to hurt feelings and jealousy
How the Company Wins
· Duty of care
Companies are legally and morally responsible to protect the safety and well-being of traveling employees. Booking the cheapest possible hotel in a sketchy neighborhood doesn’t align with the spirit or reality of duty of care. If something creepy (or worse) happens to them, you’ll lose their trust, and maybe lose them altogether. Who wants to work for a company that cares so little?
· Monetary benefits
When employees fail to report expenses on time, it skews financials. Either you can’t close the books on time, or monthly, quarterly, even the whole year’s numbers are off. When the expense finally shows up, more time is wasted on back-tracking. On average, it takes 23 minutes to reconcile a typical expense report, another 17 minutes if it has to be updated. Those minutes quickly become hours that could be devoted to something positive. Traveler-friendly policies expense submission and reimbursement procedures can improve budget control, forecasting, travel planning, and compliance.
· Happy employees and improved retention
Even the simplest policy change can produce dramatic consequences. Our CMO Jeanne Hopkins relates a story from another company: a newly-hired high-level employee discovered belatedly that he wouldn’t be allowed to use his personal credit card for business travel. Bye-bye, loyalty points. He quit. That was an expensive loss to the company, in multiple ways. How easy it would have been to prevent this!
Tips for Creating Traveler-Friendly Guidelines
Here are just a few ways you can create a win-win travel program:
· Consider company culture and the kind of travel experience you want employees to have.
· Confer with your travelers to pinpoint their key needs and challenges, so you can draft policies that are truly relevant.
· Set guidelines, not rigid.
· Keep policy short and focused on key needs – types of flights and hotels to book, ground transportation, meal per diems. Trying to address every conceivable detail or situation will make the policy cumbersome and off-putting instead of useful.)
· Avoid basic economy flights and flights with layovers.
· Use dynamic pricing, so hotel bookings are always consistent quality (comfort, safety, amenities, etc.) no matter where travelers stay.
· Adopt technology that streamlines the entire travel process, with built-in parameters that ensure in-policy booking.
Vague, top-down travel management policies virtually ensure non-compliance and inconvenience assure non-compliance. With traveler-friendly guidelines in place, the pendulum swings both ways. Everybody’s a winner. And it was easy.