company travel policy tips

Practical pointers and illuminating insights

Travel management consultants have worked with a lot of companies from different industries to develop or revise their travel policies. Here are a few insights on what to keep in mind and what to avoid.

Keep it simple

Including too much detail is one of the most common mistakes travel managers make when writing travel policy, said Neil Hammond, a partner at GoldSpring Consulting LLC. “This is not a process document, it’s not a work flow document, it’s a policy document,” he said. “Keep it simple, keep it short, make it clear and unambiguous. The last thing you want to do is take a 17,000-word policy you took off the shelf and fill that out, because nobody is going to read it.”

Hammond also advises travel managers to avoid justifying guidelines in the policy. “People just want to know quickly, what do I do and what do I not do,” he said. “Just give them the nuts and bolts; do this, don’t do this. You don’t need a paragraph explaining why you have to book early.”

Give your travel policy some teeth

Shauna Reker, Director of Emerging Technologies, Travel Management & Payment Solutions for Zulu Solutions, recommends that travel managers mandate compliance with the new travel policy to maximize cost savings. At the minimum, that means travelers are required to book preferred vendors through designated booking channels.

“It’s something that gets overlooked, but if you are not mandating it, enforcing it, and auditing it, people will just continue to book the way they want,” she said. “You can always loosen language later.”

If your company chooses a mandated policy rather than an open or guideline-driven approach, support from your executive suite—and the CFO in particular—is required. “If you can get that stakeholder to support it, you should mandate the policy,” she said. “That will save your company the most amount of money.”

Hammond said penalties for non-compliance with guidelines should be included in the policy and travel managers need to follow up if travelers stray. He added that some companies now include compliance or non-compliance to travel policy as part of employees’ annual reviews.

Write your policy for the 99 percent

Jeanne Liu, Vice President of Research for GBTA, said travel managers should avoid writing travel policy to prevent problems. “You have to build your travel program for your 99 percent,” Liu said. “There will always be the 1 percent who will break the rules, but you cannot design your program around them. The majority will follow the rules and want to do the right thing.”

Avoid the ostrich approach to sharing economy providers

If you are seeing companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb appear on traveler expense reports with increasing frequency, consider including these sharing economy travel providers in your official travel policy.

Many companies “have been quite conservative in officially endorsing or identifying the shared economy providers in their policies, particularly regarding lodging,” Hammond said. “We know the spend is going on in the lodging economy, but we have seen a lot of the ostrich approach—don’t look, don’t tell.” Added Hammond, “This is an area where behavior is going to drive policy rather than policy driving behavior.”

Travel policy is a window into your company culture

“The travel policy shows how people are treated and that can have an impact on employee satisfaction, on the happiness index,” Hammond said. “It also shows to internal stakeholders like the board of directors and shareholders how company assets are being managed. Externally it’s a bit of a window into the company as well.”

He said mid-career salesmen who are often on the road are going to carefully examine your travel policy before accepting a job with the company, and millennials are increasingly taking travel policy into account when considering career opportunities.

Make it yours

Even though you will need to include input from other stakeholders in writing your company’s travel policy, Hammond said travel managers should “stick to what you want,” particularly when working with preferred vendors. “The travel policy is the starting place for you to be armed with all the weaponry you need to achieve your goals,” he said. “Travel managers should never forget they are one of the stakeholders as well. You are the one who is going to be measured on the success of the travel program.”

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