Compliance with your corporate travel policy is important for reducing the overall cost of business travel at your organization and ensuring the safety of employees that travel on your behalf. Corporations that publish a corporate travel policy with the goal of standardizing travel and controlling costs may still incur undue costs because of non-compliance with the policy, which can often leave the company on the hook for over-priced bookings and extra fees.
As you publish your corporate travel policy, it's important to start considering how you will communicate the policy to employees and how you will promote and enforce compliance. Here are six best practices you can adopt for corporate travel compliance.
Communicate, Educate and Train Employees on Compliant Travel
Simply publishing a corporate travel policy for your organization is seldom enough to get all of your employees on the same page when it comes to compliance. Just as with other newly implemented policies, organizations need to invest time and resources into communicating with staff about new and revised expectations with respect to corporate travel.
Some of your employees will proactively read the policy, learn it inside and out, and start complying with your requirements straight away. For others, you may need to provide some guidance and training to help them learn what's expected. Either way, corporations need to ensure that their employees are aware of the policy before they can expect compliance. Here are just a few ways to get the ball rolling:
Start with an executive announcement about the new corporate travel policy. Let people know that this is a high-level strategic implementation and inform them about the target benefits.
Make a copy of the travel policy available on your HR intranet or service catalog. Encourage employees to read it.
Create a mandatory training program for travel compliance based on your policy. Have all employees complete the training to familiarize themselves with the policy itself and the requirements for compliance.
Offer Options and Flexibility in Your Booking Channels
Most employees are motivated to comply with corporate travel policies, but it's important that we make compliance as simple as possible by offering options and flexibility to employees when they travel on business.
When we place heavy restrictions on the flights and hotels that employees can book, they may have difficulty finding options that suit their needs and be tempted to coordinate their travel and accommodations outside of approved booking channels. To keep them in compliance, travelers need the option to choose from different airlines, hotels, cars, and trains to find itineraries that suit their changing needs.
Corporations with a cumbersome approvals process for each aspect of travel booking will also face issues with non-compliance. Employees in the field need the freedom and flexibility to book their own travel solutions when necessary, without going through an in-office travel manager for approval of every decision they make.
Focus on Travel as a Service for Employees
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) conducted a survey of over 350 corporate travel managers in 2015. One of the key findings was that 75% of travel managers believed that improvements to traveler service could translate directly into elevated travel policy compliance by changing the behavior of travelers. If travel managers know what’s frustrating travelers and can find a solution to ease that frustration, their compliance levels skyrocket. Still, many corporations lack a formalized program for collecting feedback and measuring traveler satisfaction, so how can organizations begin to improve their traveler service?
Allow employees to book their own travel itinerary. Give them control over the process as long as they comply with travel policies.
Implement mobile travel booking and mobile apps for in-trip changes. Make it easier for employees to create and modify travel bookings from the field.
Understand what your travelers want. A study called "The Role of Traveler Centricity in Business Air Travel" highlights the fact that travel managers and travelers themselves may have different needs and priorities when booking travel. Travel managers focus on destinations and discounts when creating new bookings, while travelers are more concerned with the airline brand, cabin configuration, and traveler experience. Improving traveler service means aligning your policy to what the traveler wants while still aiming to minimize costs where possible.
Emphasize Employee Safety and Security
Sometimes, the way that we explain the reasoning behind a specific policy can have a significant effect on whether employees ignore the policy or comply with it. One of the best ways to enforce compliance with certain travel policies is to emphasize the need for employee safety and security by explaining the duty of care that exists between the company and its employees.
When an employee travels abroad to represent your corporation, you take on the duty of care with respect to that employee - an obligation to protect them from harm. This duty of care can manifest itself in your corporate travel policy in many ways - perhaps you require employees to book their accommodations only at reputable hotels, or forbid them from booking home-sharing or ride-sharing services while traveling.
Employees need to understand the benefits of staying within your booking channels and booking accommodations with your preferred partners - things like enhanced security, ensuring that your company knows where the traveler can be found, cooperation from the hotel operator in case of an emergency, etc. Aligning booking restrictions with safety measures for employees traveling abroad can help fulfill your duty of care.
Hold Employees Accountable for Travel Expenses
A travel policy does more than place restrictions on expenses and reimbursements, it establishes streamlined policies for bookings and approvals, emergency procedures and other processes related to corporate travel. Most corporations implement a travel policy because they want to introduce consistency and standardization to the corporate travel process while reducing costs and increasing efficiency, but these objectives can only be realized when employees comply with the policy.
Corporations need to create accountability for travel expenses as a means of enforcing compliance with the policy. This means establishing real consequences for employees who book non-compliant travel itineraries or incur non-reimbursable expenses and expect your organization to pick up the tab.
Some companies choose to audit travel expenses more closely for new employees as part of a probationary period, while employees who have demonstrated compliance in the past are given more freedom and less oversight. Either way, there needs to be a genuine review of travel expenses, subjective approval based on criteria in the travel policy and feedback from the travel manager when employees fail to comply.
Automate Corporate Travel Policy Compliance with Deem
The most cutting-edge corporate travel departments today are taking advantage of corporate travel booking programs to streamline compliance with corporate travel policies, improve traveler satisfaction and experience, and streamline the booking and approval workflows that make up the corporate travel process.
Solutions like Deem Work Fource offer intuitive mobile applications where travelers are guided step-by-step through the process of booking and managing their trip. Access to Google's ITA flight search engine offers plenty of choice and flexibility for travelers, while automatic and dynamic calendar integration makes the process even more convenient and enhances traveler service and experience.
Travel managers can take advantage of Deem's robust policy builder, automating trip approvals and ensuring that travelers can only make reservations that comply with corporate policy. This makes it easy for employees to schedule flights and hotels that meet their needs and satisfy your cost reduction targets.