What Travel Policy Does Your Company Need?
One subject matter businesses cannot ignore – no matter their size or location – are rules & regulations (or so-called policies) for their employees. Think HR Policies, Legal Affairs, Internet & Technology, Finance & Accounting.
One policy that is often overlooked is the Corporate Travel & Entertainment (T&E) Policy. But where other policies, HR for example, are fairly rigid due to their compliant nature, your travel policy can have quite the impact on your company’s culture, overall work efficiency and last but not least on your employees’ happiness. So, when your travel policy is well thought-out and execution stems from this day and age, it will make the lives of both employees and management a whole lot easier. Aspects of your business positively affected by a good travel policy are:
- Cost management
T&E makes up for the second largest expense for many businesses, after payroll. With modernising your existing T&E policy and processes, a lot of money can be saved.
- Employee satisfaction & engagement
Instant receipt scanning, quick reimbursements, respect for personal time and traveler comfort and self-service balanced with personal assistance are ingredients for improved employee satisfaction and engagement.
- Corporate culture
It is important for your T&E policy to match your corporate culture, which depends greatly on a company’s believes and values and the company’s size.
- Company image
To attract top talents in your field, it is imperative nowadays to adopt and adapt to employee-friendly policies and generous workplace incentives. This is where travel management really has a role to play in ensuring your company is a best place to work and to strengthen your company’s image.
- Safety matters
Your travel policy also plays a very important role in protecting your business travelers. With a solid policy in place you will know where your employees are at in case of emergencies.
Since we now have established the importance of a good travel policy and the processes around it, the question arises what kind of travel policy do you need to achieve all the positive results as mentioned above? There are 5 interlinked factors that are extremely important in determining and implementing the best travel policy for your organization:
From a business perspective, you want to scale costs and promote operational economy. However, the employee experience – from travel planning and being on the road to expense reimbursements – is equally important, since you are as good as your best (and therefore most happy) employee. Finding the right balance in determining the ‘dos and don’ts’ is key.
Not only do the decisions you make in shaping the policy reflect on your existing corporate culture, they also have the ability to strongly influence the culture you want to evolve into. Can top tier VPs fly first class, or must all employees fly coach? Are employees expected to strictly follow the rules, or are they given leeway to use the policy as more of a guideline? Do employees need to ask for approval for all their purchases or can you rely on their loyalty towards the company? Decisions like these reflect your corporate culture and determine whether your employees view business travel as a perk or a punishment.
Automation & technology
The uncertainty surrounding reimbursement is for most companies a huge pain in their behind. When an employee pays for expenses on a business trip from personal money, they should be able to expect return on their payment with a quick turnaround time. This is too often not the case, with many businesses still resorting to manual expense management processes, which is way more time-consuming, more expensive and less responsive than modernized automatic systems. With less time spent on creating and processing expense reports, and expediting reimbursement turnaround, automating expense management boosts corporate culture and employee satisfaction.
Employee satisfaction & engagement
According to Forbes, the best places to work are nailing employee engagement, a concept that links empowerment, enthusiasm, loyalty and other variables to business success. Companies with successfully implemented travel policies make use of an automated expense system, have the technology to back up the policy, reward their employees for saving, have gone mobile and sometimes even gamify their travel program. All these factors have proven to distribute directly to employee engagement & satisfaction AND to cost savings.
Communication & awareness
Even best practices won’t be effective if there isn’t awareness. Therefore, it is very important to create a user-friendly and accessible policy. Putting the policy at the employee’s fingertips through their hand-held devices is a great way to do so. Other ways include the use of company leaderboards that keep track of savings, the display of a travel monitoring system, creating an interactive employee ‘travel blog’ to share tips & tricks, or by simply holding meetings every several months with your most frequent travelers and adjust the policy if need be. Not only do these ways make employees (more) aware of the policy and more engaged, it also shows that management values its employees’ opinion which helps building a positive corporate culture.
Companies that do it well
Great examples of companies where the above and more have taken into account are the American multinational technology company Google LLC, the Denmark-based pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk and Austin, Texas-based engineering technology firm National Instruments.
As we all know, Google is a regular leader on ‘best places to work’ lists. Its approach to travel management is unique, partly for incorporating a book-anywhere approach. According to Google, engagement is highly correlated to flexibility and autonomy, and this is exactly where open booking comes in. To support this approach, Google has effectively built its own suite of travel tools based on machine learning-powered intelligence.
At Novo Nordisk, a firm that regularly makes it on the Fortune list, it is all about their people. Everything is viewed from the standpoint of an employee and their experiences and there are no mandates when it comes to travel. Instead of saying “You must…”, at Novo you will only hear “You should…” and “We want you to..”. This does not mean that Novo Nordisk does not seek efficiencies. After all, its triple bottom line includes financial along with social and environmental responsibility. But even with no mandate, the company has an adoption of their optional self-booking program in de mid-40s percentage range.
National Instruments is a great example of how a strong corporate culture can override potentially negative aspects. It may seem strange to you that a company wants its employees to share rooms while on the road. That is, until you hear that even the CEO does it. Like everyone else, he also flies economy. At National Instruments, there are also no mandates and the travel policy are only seven pages long (or should I say short?). Employees basically spend money as if it were their own.
And then there are companies who are taking the care of their employees’ health and satisfaction to the next level by literally sending them on vacation. Definitely an interesting topic for our next article.