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Travel Policy Compliance

It is possible to create a travel policy that employees will love to follow!

Corporate road warriors are a sympathetic bunch. In order to provide their companies with glorious success, they need to battle the travel elements: long hours away from loved ones, irritating moments in airport security lines, uncomfortable sojourns on cramped airplanes, and hotel stays that feel more like an endurance than an experience. But from a business travel management perspective, harnessing the costs of this travel is fiscally prudent, and just makes good business sense.

First step? Harness the renegade travel booker. “Employees sometimes unknowingly contribute to company losses by booking a hotel or airfare outside the travel management partner,” says Megan Rideout, senior manager of account management at Egencia. “They think they are helping by 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.”

Once you decide to implement a travel management program, carefully plot your communication plan. “A new program launch should always include a multi-layered education campaign with e-mail, direct communications and training sessions. Each employee group needs a tailored communications program. And don’t forget to involve executives, key stakeholders and executive assistants at the beginning for early buy-in.

Communication Should Be Ongoing
Once the program is launched, the education process does not end. This is the single largest error that organizations make, say the pros. For example, if there’s a change to the policy, there needs to be a targeted education campaign including a letter from a senior leader asking for employees’ support. “Specifically explain why the policy is in place and detail how it’s done,” says Toronto-based Brian Robertson, president/COO, Vision 2000 Travel Group. “Then quantify it by telling them that if they do this, it will save the company X amount.” Roberston says webinars are also a personal and effective way to get the word out.

Three’s the Charm
“A common rule is to ensure that business travellers are communicated to at least three times via e-mail, verbal discussions, training sessions, webinars or company intranet,” says Rideout. “This may mean a message from the CEO, a training session by the travel manager and travel management company partner, and a reminder e-mail containing a link to the policy. Make travel policy compliance the responsibility of the whole company.”

Three Questions, Three Answers

How stringent should a policy be?
“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,” says Robertson. “Ultimately how much flexibility depends on company culture and of course, the balance between saving money and saving time,” he says.  

What are some incentives for compliance?
• Allowing business 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, such as a premium luggage set, for high adoption rates.

Are there punishments for non-compliance?
Yes, says Rideout. “Written warnings or direct communications from the travel manager 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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