An organization’s travel policy is the lifeblood of its travel management program. Preferred vendors, pre-trip planning, details on travel expense management and additional important information relating to travel is included in this document. When utilized to its full capacity, your organization’s travel policy can provide cost savings to your travel and entertainment line item, control over travel expenses and increase the productivity of your employees.
The travel policy can also be used as a tool to attract and retain the brightest and best employees within your business. Impressive talent in this global, highly-competitive economy is hard to find, especially those that deem travel as a large part of their employment. When you come across that perfect person, it’s critical that your corporate culture reflects a positive attitude and gives flexibility to travelers. Travel policies must be in place to meet the demands of these road warriors.
At the same time, businesses need to ensure that smart decisions are being made regarding travel expense. As the second largest controllable cost in the organization, this important line item can have a significant effect on your bottom line.
It’s imperative to balance your company goals with your traveler’s needs to be successful. We call this the “yin and yang” of corporate travel. This important balance can be a challenge, yet with a clearly defined travel policy it is possible. How can your business find this balance to attract and retain valuable employees?
Challenge #1 – Your travel policy is exactly the same for everyone
This is common in SMEs who may or may not have the staff or time to develop a travel policy to meet everyone’s needs. Your road warriors tend to take matters into their own hands, literally through their mobile device, and book travel based on what best meets their ultra-busy, high-expectation schedule.
Solution –Tiered travel policies
This solution can meet the needs of your regular travelers by providing them with extra flexibility and options, while still keeping them compliant with the travel policy. For example, allow additional flexibility in rate selection for certain travelers; those who travel regularly to the yearly conference could have a $100 cushion when booking the lowest available fare. Travelers who travel monthly could instead have $200 per fare flexibility.
As you recruit employees who will be required to travel, assess their needs and expectations, confirm exceptions that still fit within your travel policy and communicate this flexibility to ensure satisfaction.
Challenge #2 – The class of service is the same for occasional travelers, as it is for road warriors
A recent survey from Business Travel News (BTN) says that more than half of all corporate travel buyers find “the lowest negotiable rate” the most important when choosing a travel supplier; more important than both level of service and supplier perks. While a low rate on hotel, airfare and car is important in keeping costs at a minimum, your potential road warriors may find that this “vanilla” option loses its appeal almost immediately.
Solution – Implement class of service flexibility
Flexibility within your travel policy is key when working on class of service, and this flexibility can be used when recruiting high level employees. If your potential recruit will be required to travel overseas on a regular basis, consider bumping up their flight status to first class when this is required. This will not only keep high performers satisfied, but also increase their level of overall productivity while spending long hours in flight.
Challenge #3 – Using a personal credit card for expenses
An SME’s budget may not allow all travelers the use of a corporate credit card. Unfortunately, using a personal credit card for business travel expenses not only impacts your employee’s personal finances, but adds a lack of control and predictability in managing corporate travel expenses.
Solution – Allow road warriors the use of a corporate credit card
Allowing your high performing road warriors the use of a corporate credit card takes the burden from them personally, and more importantly, allows for seamless tracking of travel expenses. Including this expense management flexibility in your company’s travel policy gives road warriors the needed flexibility to travel and control over travel expense management. Potential road warriors may also find benefit through retaining credit card perks that can then be used for personal travel.
Challenge #4 – Lack of support while traveling
There are numerous challenges that travelers are faced with while on the road. Weather, flight or traffic delays and more serious challenges like potential terror attacks can cause travel disruptions. For your frequent travelers, the probability of experiencing some type of disruption while traveling for business is very high, causing frustration and missed work opportunities. In addition, these disruptions can cause employees to spend less time at home.
Solution – Ensure 24/7/365 support through your travel policy
When speaking with potential employees, it’s critical to communicate your travel policy regarding support on the road. Your travel policy can include specific support from travel vendors and/or the 24/7 support of your travel management company (TMC). A highly supported travel package can then be used to recruit highly talented individuals into your business. Mobile tools can also improve their travel, providing the highest level of support to get the job done, and ensure a safe return.
Challenge #5 – Lack of flexibility or empowerment to choose favorite suppliers
Travel policies typically include specific vendors based on the preferred suppliers your business works with. This makes sense, especially as leadership works to control costs. Yet, high performing recruits may have very specific partners that they frequent, and your business’ lack of flexibility or traveler empowerment may prevent them from choosing to work for you.
Solution – Assess cost/benefit regarding top recruit expectations
This can be a challenge, yet, taking the opportunity to assess and analyze what positive financial affect this top talent will bring to the organization is critical. Does this person have the ability to close the big deal? Are they top-of-the-line when it comes to customer support and procuring additional business? Evaluate your business plan, and assess whether this recruit’s talent mitigates the additional cost incurred with their travel vendor requirements. Once a decision has been made, be sure to include this specific traveler’s expectations within your travel policy to ensure control and predictability as they travel.
Once your top talent is on board, be sure they are included in and familiar with all aspects of your business’ travel policy, including adherence to your travel and expense management system. Incorporating this high user in all policies helps you track their actual travel expense and provides benefit through:
- Leveraging preferred supplier contracts
- Showing a positive (or negative) return on investment (ROI) based on this traveler’s business contribution versus their cost of travel.
How effective is your travel policy? Feel free to comment below or download our Travel & Expense Policy Workbook and learn how a clearly stated travel policy that includes flexibility for high performing road warriors, combined with clear expectations on travel expense management, balances the needs of both company and traveler. This allows for increased cost control, employee productivity and the ability for you to attract and retain happy, satisfied employees.