How Box refreshed its company travel policy
Rachel Ersted: We had a three-pronged approach. The first was to make sure we tightened it up so we were controlling spending but still making travel an enjoyable and efficient experience. The second was to ensure that we got the message out by encouraging managers to enforce compliance with the policy. Another issue was that we had two policies, one for EMEA and one for the U.S., and that caused confusion. That was the third prong to our approach, to make it a global, all-encompassing policy.
What internal stakeholders were involved with the refresh?
The core team that revitalized our policy was our Director of Shared Services, a key member of the Accounts Payable team who manages our Concur system and expense management, the Treasurer, and myself.
How did the team work together?
We went through and redlined the document individually, all four of us, and then we came together and had a handful of meetings where we went through all of each other’s feedback. There were some issues that took a really, really long time to get through and things we disagreed on, but by the end of March 2016 we had come up with a final new policy that did not differ materially from the initial policy, but was much clearer and global as well.
What did you want to accomplish with the travel policy refresh?
Goal number one was to make sure we were incentivizing tighter spending in an effort to get to that goal of positive free cash flow, so we crafted the policy around making sure budgets and limits were reasonable. Additionally, we wanted our travelers to be very comfortable and feel good about traveling for business, so we couldn’t be overly restrictive.
In crafting this policy and launch plan, it was more important to set expectations that leaders needed to enforce this policy than it was to set tight spend limits. A lot of leakage comes when employees don’t realize that there is a policy and it’s not properly communicated.
We crafted the policy around making sure budgets and limits were reasonable but also incentivized travelers to think about how they were spending the company’s money.
Ensuring policy compliance is a common issue. How did you approach that at Box?
We went to the weekly all-hands meetings led by each department’s respective executive and we presented the policy and main points. We did this for every single department across the entire company over about a month. We had a couple of meetings every week where we’d go and stand in front of a large group of employees and say, ‘This is the travel policy, we are here to answer any questions, this is the expectation, and managers we are holding you accountable for this,’ so no one could say that they didn’t know where to find the policy or what it was.
It sounds like it was a pretty exciting and challenging month.
People have very personal travel preferences so it’s hard to please everybody. That’s something I definitely learned. You can not please everybody.
What else did you do to inform your business travelers about the travel policy?
We have an internal internet page for Box, called Boxernet. I created a Boxernet website for travel and entertainment that has about 15 pages of information ranging from how do I book my trip at Box, where do I go for help, where should I stay, and where should I rent a car from, to which airlines are preferred. It has a lot of valuable information on it. In fact, that’s how we formally launched the Airbnb partnership. We had a page on lodging with a huge section dedicated to Airbnb, including how to join the platform.
Were these efforts effective?
Having all that information out there and making it accessible to employees—and most importantly telling people that it’s there—was how we got employees to buy in to this new policy and for managers to enforce it with their direct reports.