The Rules of Compliance
10 ways to get business travellers on-board with your company’s travel policy
By Michelle Warren
These days, it doesn’t pay to take a too-stringent top-down approach to getting employees to comply with travel policies. Instead, progressive companies are embracing collaboration, part of an effort to empower business travellers and promote optimum buy-in. “A level of mandate is necessary because it is really the foundation, but mandating has its limits,” says Minneapolis-based Yon Abad, senior director, CWT Solutions Group Americas. “You always have some lack of compliance so the ongoing question should be, ‘how do we do something better?’ Companies are trying to find more engaging ways than just mandating.” And here are some of those strategies:
“Understand traveller behaviours that are driving non-compliance,” says London-based corporate travel strategist Mark O’Brien, partner and director of EMEA, for TCG Consulting. Conduct business traveller surveys to ensure preferred suppliers and future policies align with traveller preferences. Some companies use travel councils to include serious travellers in crafting policies, others use social media to gather real-time feedback during travel.
Provide monthly data-driven year-to-date travel summaries that highlight the good and the bad—savings incurred, missed savings, percentage and cost of bookings outside of policy. Use these reports to track and compare individuals, as well as divisions and departments. “Internal tracking can be very influential. When people believe they are being monitored, policy compliance behaviours improve dramatically,” says TCG chief marketing officer, Bill Kerr, based in Charlotte, NC.
Share the accountability
“In so many companies the onus is on the travel manager, but division leaders can share responsibility for keeping their people on policy,” says David Reilly, manager, account management, at Egencia. He cites one company where department level managers were charged with following up if an employee was not compliant, average ticket prices dropped 17 per cent year over year. “Having that visibility puts more focus on compliance.”
Lead by example
“One thing that’s key is executive support,” says Reilly. Ensure senior management buy-in and encourage them to send the right message by travelling on policy.
Make details accessible online and ensure that all business travellers and new employees receive clear instructions and training, not only on the policy, but also booking processes and tools, says Kerr. And, instead of taking a ‘thou-shalt’ attitude, share information and explain why policies exist, not just in terms of savings, but also safety and security. In an emergency, companies need to know how to find their people.
If your aim is to reduce hotel expenditures by 15 per cent, make it everyone’s responsibility. “If you don’t explain what your goal is, people are not going to buy into it,” says Dirk Baerts, managing director of Mississauga-based Egencia Canada and Meeting & Incentives North America. Communicate goals, the reasons behind them and how to achieve them, so travellers understand how they can be part of the solution. And, don’t forget to thank people.
A comprehensive online booking system not only makes booking and tracking easier, but it’s also proactive, filtering out undesirable actions and enforcing a degree of compliance by advising travellers if they are booking outside of policy. “The more content you can make available on the more platforms, the more compliance,” says Baerts, adding the key is to offer technology that is easy to navigate, and is available anytime, anywhere (mobile integration is key).
Engaging game tactics, such as points and friendly competition, incites individual travellers and teams to support policies. “It’s much more effective to reward good decisions than punish for bad decisions,” says Abad.
Over time, compliance tends to drop as policies become static and don’t evolve with changing situations, technology and culture. Keep it fluid by staying abreast and ahead of best practices.
Is the travel policy on par with industry peers? A well-thought out, engaging policy is an important recruitment and retention tool.
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