The secret to any effective travel policy is compliance. So why are levels of compliance low in come companies?
Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve done the groundwork. You’ve defined your business objectives and the goals of the travel policy. You’ve engaged with all the stakeholders in your business, from finance to HR, IT to security, to ensure that you understand their travel needs. Now, you’ve drafted a travel policy that meet all those business and personal needs.
COMMUNICATE THE POLICY
The main cause of non-compliance is travelers not being aware of or understanding the policy. So, the first step to compliance is making sure your corporate travel policy is circulated to every traveler in the organization.
Communicate the policy in the format - printed or digital – and via whatever channel is going to be most effective to reach the audience – and be read.
MAKE THE POLICY EASY TO UNDERSTAND
Of course, the best-crafted policy is going to be useless if travellers don’t understand it. By requesting feedback on the policy from travellers, you will help them to grasp the procedures they need to follow and answer any questions they have.
For example, can the employee take their spouse or family with them? Will the company reimburse the employee for the cost of a missed flight? Can the employees keep any loyalty programme points or other benefits?
Constructive suggestions from travellers are useful because a travel policy will need to evolve and be updated as the needs of the business and its travellers change.
HUMANS MAKE MISTAKES
Business travellers want to do the right thing for their employers. But on occasions, they breach policy without knowing it – usually because they’re not certain whether a rule is mandatory or optional.
By differentiating between guidelines and procedures in your travel policy, you will reduce accidental leakage of spend. Explain why specific rules have been laid down and how they align with your company’s objectives.
Also make sure that your travel policy covers travellers’ every single need. Be explicit about pre-trip approval processes, expense reporting and ancillary purchases such as in-flight food and beverages.
PROVIDE A SINGLE TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM
Another frequent cause of non-compliance is booking through un-managed channels, either direct with suppliers or via an Online Travel Agent (OTA). Without the right tools – and understanding what they are - compliance is harder to achieve.
In today’s business travel world, that means having online booking available through mobile, and for that experience to complement the desktop equivalent seamlessly. Pre-trip approval processes need to be consistent too to make it easier for travelers to follow policy.
ENFORCE THE POLICY
Once you’ve communicated your policy, make sure senior management mandates rather than recommends it.
Make sure your TMC knows the policy and the steps to be taken in cases of non-compliance. Adopting an online expense management system will help to automate policy enforcement.
GIVE TRAVELERS WHAT THEY WANT
Travel programmes that are flexible and deliver beyond travellers’ expectations not only help to attract and retain talent; they also improve productivity. A big step towards better policy compliance is making sure travellers get what they want from the policy. Otherwise, they are likely to book outside the programme.
To ensure policy compliance amongst millennials, employers need to design travel policies that are flexible and allow millennial business travellers to customise their journey according to their preferences, clearly defining when business travel ends, and leisure travel begins. They have high consumption behaviour – they need fast and intuitive booking solutions and a wide choice of travel options; they value experience over expenditure; Asian business travellers are twice as likely to make a Bleisure booking that includes a weekend stay than their European counterparts.
CONTINUAL TRAVELER ENGAGEMENT
Effective travel policies are based upon traveler engagement. That means getting the right message delivered it at the right time.
Ongoing traveler communication will help your travelers make better decisions by making them aware of the impact of those decisions. Giving them the freedom to make those informed choices could also reduce overall spend.
As always, the ‘wild card’ in travel policy management is the culture of your company. Travel policy can only work if it suits the prevailing corporate culture – or corporate culture can be changed to fir policy. And that’s a whole different ball game…