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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Member Blog: Why travel policy matters

By Alan McDonagh - Roomex

Just like any company policy, a well-thought out business travel policy will allow all stakeholders to be comfortable around the area of business travel. Business owners and management can be sure that their staff are staying within budget, that they are meeting their duty of care requirements in terms of level of accommodation provided, and that time is not being wasted in the organisation of business trips. A successful travel policy will often centralise expense into a few key providers giving visibility on spend and therefore negotiating power.  

Employees on the other hand will appreciate the clarity around the expectations for business travel and an easy to follow procedure.  They will also feel that they are being treated fairly and with respect as they go and represent their company to clients or prospects.

So having a good travel policy makes sense at all levels, but how do you ensure it is implemented correctly? Perhaps the answer to the question best lies in focusing on the well-established 3Cs concept: Culture, Communication and Compliance. All three are interdependent and critical to consider throughout the creation, implementation and operation of travel policy.

Different policies work in different companies, or different types of companies. For a modern hi-tech company then “gamification” of the travel policy might work. On the other hand, more established or traditional companies may have stricter policies which they insist be followed, purposely making anything booked outside of policy difficult to claim on expenses. Roomex advise that companies of all types should be striving for greater than 90% compliance with company travel policy. Booking outside of policy should be the absolute exception, and for good reason, but even this spend should be traceable. It is extremely important for overall visibility, billing, control and future contract negotiation, that as much spend as possible complies with policy.

Implementing travel policy correctly involves listening to the concerns of staff on the ground, particularly in different cultures and countries. By showing that the local staff have the ability to input into policy formulation then the actual communication of the final policy becomes much easier. Frustration is often created by language such as “should” and “may” which is too inexact and leads to doubts which in turn leads to non-compliance. Better to be bold and insist that things are followed by using “must”.

Buy-in on travel policy is required at the highest level of management but also throughout the ranks. Leakage from the policy will occur if the policy isn’t flexible, realistic, achievable and monitored. The role of the PA and administrative staff is particularly important as they often have their finger on the pulse of habits that may be difficult to change if not considered in the policy.

Finally, who should own the company travel policy? Is it Procurement, HR, Finance or a combi-nation of departments? While there is no real consensus on that, the general feeling is the role of HR is critical. Travel is a soft issue that can have big consequences in terms of morale if not handled properly and for that reason it probably fits best if it becomes part of the HR function.

For more information contact Alan McDonagh:

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