Without a travel policy, an organization doesn’t have much of a managed travel program. And when there is a formal policy, many travelers don’t follow it — if they are even aware of it. There are several reasons why an organization may not enforce its own rules, but Executive Travel chairman and CEO Steve Glenn thinks efforts to make employees comply are well worth it. Here he provides some pointers.
I am blessed to count this as my 32nd year in travel management. And now I must confess a dirty little secret about company travel policies: very few companies enforce them.
One of my favorite jokes is my story about moving to a new town and trying to find a new church to attend. After sampling church after church, I finally found one that was pretty liberal. It was so liberal that instead of having the Ten Commandments it had Four Commandments and six suggestions. That seems to be how many companies enforce their travel policies.
Not only do many companies not enforce their travel policies — but also most travelers have never seen or read them. Some of the travel policies I have read are 30 pages long and would take four hours to read. Can we really blame a traveler for not reading their company policy if all they want to do is make a simple reservation from Omaha to Chicago, do their job and get home?
Do companies need a travel policy? The answer is a resounding yes! Travel today can be expensive, complicated, frustrating and, in some cases, dangerous. Employees need to know:
• When to travel (and who approves it)
• How to make travel reservations
• What spending is appropriate and what isn’t
• How to pay and/or get reimbursed
• How to stay safe when traveling
One big thing that new or younger travelers need is some simple coaching on how to travel.
A giant reason for a travel policy is that every company is liable for the safety of its employees while they are traveling for company business. If you don’t clearly communicate the do’s and don’ts you open yourself up to a big liability should something go seriously wrong during a business trip and an employee is harmed.
Here are eight things that companies should consider to make a travel policy enforceable and adhered to (and maybe even read).
Make travel easier for the traveler. A travel policy needs to be a roadmap for employees that makes it easier for them to travel. Sure, you need to share the things they must do, but also build in enough flexibility to allow them to remove some of the pain of travel.
Keep your travel policy short and sweet. No one reads anything today longer than three paragraphs. (Ha, except you. Look at how long this article is!) I think a travel policy should be a bulleted list or another format that is easy to search.
Serve up the travel policy in small bites. Travelers don’t need to memorize your travel policy. With technology today you can serve up policy along the way. When they are making hotel reservations, have your reservation system pop up the preferred hotels. When they fly to Pittsburgh, tell them how your preferred airline saves the company money and provides additional flyer benefits.
Explain to the traveler what’s in it for them. Travel managers should focus on building in strong perks that make travel easier: free upgrades, amenities and other conveniences that make life on the road smoother.
Make your travel policy visual. Since nobody reads 30 pages of policy, convert your travel policy to a visual format using Prezi or other tools for presenting key policy issues on one page. From there, travelers drill down to find answers under each key heading: airfare, hotels, car rental, etc. Make your policy colorful, short and easy to read.
Make your travel policy contemporary. I can’t believe how many policies don’t include info about Uber, Airbnb and other sharing-economy travel options. By not addressing these issues you are leaving it up to the traveler to make good or bad decisions. Tell them they can or cannot use these options. Be clear and concise.
Enforce policy with centralized payment processes. The reason many companies have such lousy policy compliance is they don’t implement systems that lock down payment for travel. Today you can pay airlines, hotels, car rental companies and even Uber using a centralized payment system. Simply don’t reimburse for expenses charged outside the company travel system and you will achieve 100 percent compliance in a matter of days.
Turn your travel policy into 30- to 45-second videos. Use videos that educate travelers about the how-to of travel and you will be amazed at how easily they will jump on board the company travel management train.
Maybe it is time for you to dust off your travel policy and update it. New technology allows you to communicate it in easily digestible ways that are relevant to the contemporary traveler. Make it easy and fun, and compliance will follow.
• In Defense Of Corporate Travel Policy
• Travel Managers Ruminate On The Impacts Of Tightening And Relaxing Policies
• Mark Hollyhead On Building Better Air Policies
• For Some, Travel Policy Isn’t Black And White
• The Grey Areas Of Noncompliance
• Traveler Engagement: (Hard) Work In Progress