Why your business travel policy needs updating
What is the main purpose of your travel policy? Is it to reduce costs? To ensure you are meeting your duty of care? To optimise productivity? Or to underwrite quality and ensure your workers are operating at the highest level?
A trio of forces are forcing organisations of all kinds to rethink their travel policies:
New technologies/ service delivery models which make it harder to enforce traveller compliance; a changing risk profile across many regions of the world which demand an increased focus on duty of care; and new pricing models in the travel industry that make it difficult for travel bookers to optimise their time and understand comparative costs, and for travellers to understand policies and what is included. How should travel managers respond?
Be clear about the objectives of your travel policy.
Being clear about what you want to achieve will help you make the right decisions about contracts, offers, and partner relationships and be a focus of all negotiations and policies. Ideally, your objectives should also be communicated in a clear statement so all travellers understand why the rules and policies are as they are.
Talk to travellers about what they want.
You might not be able to respond to every demand, but every demand does need to be considered in the context of your overall objectives. What can you say “yes” to?
If you work with a travel management company, it is also worth involving them in the policy development process. As well as being able to offer you insights and advice, your travel management company will have a clearer idea of your policies and the goals behind them.
If they understand why a policy has been put in place in the first place, they will have more leeway when applying the policy and can feedback more pertinent ideas for improvement.
Investigate opportunities for personalisation.
Different travellers have different needs. How much flexibility can you build into the system in order to accommodate these needs?
How can this be reflected in your travel policies? For example, should frequent travellers be entitled to extra standards of comfort? What defines a “frequent traveller”?
Digitalisation offers opportunities for personalisation that simply haven’t been available before; as well as helping you to monitor spend and manage risk in real time. Investing in systems for travel management – or choosing to work with a travel management company that can provide these services – will not only help you build flexibility but also monitor how that flexibility is being used so you can develop your planning accordingly.
What flexibility can you build into the system to transform your travel policies into an employee incentive?
As we’ve already noted, putting staff at the heart of your travel policies is key. When looking at how much a particular rate, agreement or policy may save the business, you must balance that against the cost of traveller discomfort and stress, how this could affect morale, wellbeing, and retention.
Offering perks doesn’t have to be more expensive: building in flexibility to extend business trips for leisure could save you money if travellers then make the return flight off peak, for example. A flexible bleisure policy could, then, save the business money as well as being a powerful staff incentive. Thinking creatively for solutions can be rewarding and are best achieved by involving travellers in this process.
How do you communicate policies?
Communication is always an essential element of any travel policy. This isn’t only about marketing channels and campaigns; this is about clear and effective messaging.
The need for clear messaging and effective communication is magnified if you are increasing the amount of personalisation and flexibility, as this can be interpreted as complexity. How are you going to communicate the changes and ensure your message has clarity so that everyone understands the rules?
How do you enforce policies?
The simple way to ensure your policies are enforced is to use a travel management company for all travel. You’ll need to select a travel management company that offers flexible monitoring and management reports, as well as being competent in enforcing your policies, so you can monitor travel, spend, and policy enforcement easily.
If you don’t work with a partner who can enforce your policies, you’ll need to implement real-time monitoring and reporting and ensure that your team follows up quickly and robustly when your reports flag up any uncompliant booking or spend. Think about how you are going to escalate non-compliance where it is a problem. These penalties will need to be integrated into your communications plan.
However, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that you are delivering a service to those travellers. Take non-compliance as an opportunity to get feedback; why did that traveller go off policy? How would they like you change the policy to reduce non-compliance? What opportunities are there to develop and improve your policies?
Is your travel policy as dynamic as the environment in which it has to operate?
Throughout the preceding points, we’ve noted how these developments offer new opportunities for learning and feedback to help you develop policies that closely match the needs of travellers and the business. Your plan shouldn’t be written and then forgotten about; to demonstrate most value to the business you need to ensure it is a living, breathing document that responds to our rapidly changing environment and changing business and traveller needs.
Draw on the experience and insight of your travel management company, the feedback of your travellers, and respond to trends in real-time data so that you can reduce costs and risk, and maximise traveller comfort and benefit to the business.
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