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Creating Travel Policy Compliance

Travel policy experts share their secrets in creating and securing a successful policy.

Corporate travel management is a minefield through which companies and employees alike must tiptoe. Employees’ priorities, including direct flights and easily accessible hotels, can be vastly different from companies’ priorities—namely cost containment.

Ignite asked a couple of travel policy experts to share their secrets in creating—and successfully securing—corporate travel policy compliance. To lead us carefully through the steps is Toronto-based Brian Robertson, president/COO, Vision 2000 Travel Group, and Megan Rideout, senior manager of account management, Egencia, also from Toronto.

Q. What’s the first step?
A. Robertson. Even before a company attempts to define a travel policy, they’d do well to consider hiring a travel management company. A TMC will write it up and help implement the policy. A do-it-yourself policy is okay if it’s barebones, like having just one hotel chain and one airline supplier.

Q: Once the policy is drafted what are some difficulties in getting compliance?
A. Rideout. Employees sometimes unknowingly contribute to company losses such as booking a hotel or airfare outside the corporate travel management partner. They think they are helping by spending their time searching for a rate that is a few dollars less. The spirit of this intention is always appreciated, but the savings are usually very small and the loss in employee productivity is huge.

Q. What measures can be put in place to ensure compliance?   
A. Rideout. A new program launch should always include a multi-layered education campaign with email, direct communications and training sessions. And the education process does not end with the launch— this is the single largest error that organizations make. For example, if there’s a change to the policy, a targeted education campaign with a letter from a senior leader asking for employees’ help in supporting the new policy. 

A. Robertson: Specifically explain why the policy is in place and detail how it’s done. Then quantify it by saying, “If we do this, it will save the company X amount. Webinars are a good tool for getting the word out.

Q. How important is communication and who is ultimately responsible for overseeing the travel policy?
A. Rideout. Very. A common rule is to ensure that travellers are communicated to at least three times via email, verbal discussions, training sessions, webinars or company Intranet. This may translate into a communiqué from the CEO, a training session by the corporate travel manager and TMC partner, and a reminder email containing a link to the policy. While the ultimate responsibility for the travel program lies with the corporate travel manager or procurement director, the entire company really is responsible for compliance. 

Q. How stringent should a policy be?
A. Robertson. Most policies have some flexibility, such as partnering with more than one airline so that employees can compare best departure and arrival times and which flight is direct. Ultimately how much flexibility depends on company culture and of course, the balance between saving money and saving time. 

Q. What are some incentives for compliance?
A. Robertson. • Allowing travellers to keep frequent flyer points. • If an employee chooses the least expensive flight, the company can share a portion of the savings. • Building in a meaningful prize, like a premium luggage set, for high adoption rates.

Q: Are there punishments for non-compliance?
A. Rideout. Yes. Written warnings or direct communications from corporate travel management are common for first-time offenders. Refusing to reimburse travellers is not the right tool for every organization, but it can be very effective.

By Sherryll Sobie

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