The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

Is Your Travel Policy Ruining Your Company Culture?

Posted by Mike MacNair on Mar 8, 2016 2:08:00 PM

Is Your Travel Policy Ruining Your Company Culture?In most organizations, Travel and Expense is the 2nd largest line item after your personnel. There is often plenty of waste and inefficiency, which affects every aspect of your organization. If you’re the CFO, you know there is opportunity to better manage your travel & expense policy to close those gaps. 

For example, how many of your employees adhere to your travel policy? Do they even know it exists? How much is it a part of the company culture? Does it work with or against your existing company culture?

Your company culture may have unspoken “rules” among the employees and how much they comply with an existing policy. Is Business Class de rigueur for all or does everyone fly coach? Even that latter distinction can eat into your bottom line if you don’t have a clear stand on whether or not premium coach is acceptable or not.

There are so many ancillary airline fees these days, they can be a big source of confusion and lost revenue and that’s just one part of the corporate travel policy. All of this adds up to wasted time and perhaps a feeling that some of the employees get special treatment.

As the CFO, you’re in a difficult position. You need greater oversight over the travel management process so you can align with the organizational goals of improving efficiency, closing revenue gaps and minimizing risks. Yet, you want to keep your employees happy so they remain productive and you retain them. As you know, crafting a travel policy that works for your bottom line, your employees and your corporate culture is a delicate balance. It needs to reflect today’s travel realities with costs and risk restraints as well as other priorities.

Here’s how you can align your travel & expense policy with organizational goals yet improve the company culture for greater employee retention.

Are Your Employees Confused? 

Employees who are confused or unaware of your travel policy can lead to inefficiency and waste. The reason is because everyone will take his or her own approach to booking travel, which means there is no clear process.

This can lead to a lot of wasted time filling out expense reports and chasing after receipts.

It can also mean to a lack of travel compliance. Does your company culture encourage employees to be aware of the travel policy and comply with it? In order to find out, you can open a dialogue. What are they confused about and where do they find frustration in the travel process?

If your employees are aware of the corporate travel policy, why it exists and it aligns with their (true) needs, it’s easier to get their buy in. This means they’ll take a proactive approach to following it, which in turn can make for happier employees when they see how much it simplifies their lives.

Productive Employees are Happy Employees

When your travel policy addresses today’s realities of online booking, ancillary fees, and Uber, you’re working with your employees to help them be more productive. After all, employees are going to use their Smartphones while on the road. If they can tap into an existing booking and payment system, it’s easier to track expenses and it speeds up reimbursements -- all of which make for happier employees.

When the travel policy works WITH employees, it encourages compliance with the policy, helps you keep a better eye on costs and gets employee buy in.  

Happy employees are more productive and stay longer at the company. That impacts the bottom line because it costs thousands of dollars to recruit and train new people.

Are Travel Program Updates a Nightmare?

It’s no secret that change is difficult for both individuals and organizations. To ease change, it’s a good idea to assess how the current travel & expenses policy is viewed in the organization. Ask questions of the employees and find out where they’re confused or misinformed. For example, if it’s clearly outlined that employees should choose the lowest cost fare, define what that means. Is it the lowest cost coach fare no matter what? Or is it the lowest cost Business Class fare at the most convenient time?  

When you talk with your employees and hear their concerns, you can refine the current travel policy so it’s more in alignment with their (true) needs and reflect today’s travel realities. Get input from your road warriors, your senior and junior employees and even those who only travel once or twice a year. Once you have that information, you’re in a better position to implement travel policy changes with a high degree of compliance. You may even discover simple “fixes.” For example, if it’s common to book travel last minute, even travel that’s been on the calendar for months, you can discover significant cost savings simply by booking travel 21 days or more in advance. 

Depending on your corporate culture, your employees could even be rewarded for complying with the travel policy. With good communication and an up-to-date corporate travel policy, your travel management process can actually help your employees rather than being an arduous, eye rolling experience.

4 Tips for Updating Your Travel Policy

When you have an ineffective policy or a high level of non-compliance, it affects your employee’s outlooks and attitudes and doesn’t reduce or control your costs and risks.

Yet, it doesn’t do your employees or the organization any good to come in and develop a heavy-handed top down approach. You risk alienating staff with this approach.

If you’re currently operating with no formal travel policy or an outdated policy, it’s better to start small and keep it simple. Here’s how:

  1. Listen to your employees. As mentioned above, where are they confused or frustrated? What’s easy to implement about the current policy and what doesn’t address modern realities of travel?
  2. Speak with various departments and compile their answers. Out of these conversations, you can set company-based goals and objectives that meet your needs for cost and safety compliance but also meet your cultural objectives.
  3. Define a clear breakdown of air, rail, car and hotel policies. For example - Who are your preferred providers? Is there a checked bag limit? Is premium coach acceptable? Should employees use corporate credit cards or personal credit cards for booking?
  4. Pricing: What are the travel pricing thresholds and why? Are they brand specific or government dictated?

I recommend you consider all of the above as you craft an updated travel policy that supports company culture for your organization. There is no one-size-fits all solution but rather the most effective travel policy will be the one that works for your employees while aligning with organizational goals. How does your travel policy impact your company culture? Share your experience and challenges in the comments below. If you are ready to create a more effective travel policy, download this travel policy workbook.

Travel Policy Workbook

Topics: T&E, travel policy