Jack our CEO and Michael our Sales Director recently joined top travel buyers and suppliers from Ireland and Britain who gathered in Dublin to participate in the inaugural Irish edition of the Buying Business Travel Forum. The event was billed as a half-day session for everyone responsible for controlling business travel expenditure and the discussion was frank and informative throughout.
Travel managers from several multinational companies were on hand to share their thoughts on the creation and implementation of corporate travel policy. The over-riding theme of the day, how to successfully implement a corporate travel policy, was discussed in depth. Perhaps the answer to the question best lies in focusing on the well-established, 3C’s 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. It was commonly accepted 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.
All travel planners present agreed that implementing travel policy correctly involved 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 was expressed by some delegates that language such as “should” and “may” 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 was stressed as being 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 combination of departments? While there was no real consensus on that, the general feeling was 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.
Thanks to all the team at ACTE and Buying Business Travel for putting together a very informative and enjoyable forum. We await the dates for the next event.