Your company has policies on everything, from proper attire to vacation time to culture. But what about travel policies?
Having a travel policy in place, and managing and mandating that policy effectively, can save you time and energy if travel problems occur. In the wake of recent natural disasters, terrorist attacks and airplane crashes, it’s important to keep track of where your employees are traveling to and from, and prepare them for worst case scenarios.
“Without mandated policies and procedures, you haven’t communicated the proper controls to your travelers,” says John L. Sturm, executive director of sales and marketing at Professional Travel Inc. “You’ll also experience a loss of financial controls and savings, and face security issues.”
Smart Business spoke with Sturm about how to manage and mandate travel effectively, how to adhere to these policies and procedures, how to educate employees on the travel policies, and the benefits of mandating and managing travel.
How can a company manage and mandate travel effectively?
The travel industry is constantly changing. Travel today is vastly different from what it was three months ago and will be vastly different three months from now. You have to constantly focus on what and how much you will allow to be spent in the new climate. For example, numerous new fees were added for airline travel because of the rising fuel prices. Your travel policy must be adaptable and examined regularly to accommodate these changes. You need to perform annual travel policy reviews to evaluate what parts need a full overhaul and what need just minor adjustments.
You also need to monitor the areas you travel to so you are aware of any risks. Certainly there are hot spots around the world, but incidents can happen anywhere. It’s almost impossible for a travel or security manager to be aware of everything that can affect his or her travelers. There are companies that can provide analyses on countries and monitor current events for elements that can affect travelers.
How can an organization adhere to these policies and procedures?
A structured managed travel program enables you to monitor compliance nearly automatically. A travel management company sets up all the information in employee profiles. So if you’re flying from departure city A to destination city B, you use airline X, you use preferred hotel chain Y, and preferred rental car company Z if you’re renting a car. This is typically followed 99 percent of the time once travelers know these policies are being enforced and monitored.
Make sure that employees understand that if they don’t use your travel management company and preferred vendors, they won’t be reimbursed for their travel. It takes only one time with one employee for everyone to understand the consequences.
How can you educate your employees on these travel procedures and why it’s important to adhere to them?
You can give your employees access to a comprehensive database that allows them to pull information about their destinations. It can include information such as security, transportation, health, entry/exit requirements, culture, communications and technology, legal issues, environmental factors and financial information. Service providers are usually able to give this information to the traveler as soon as the trip is booked. Travelers are more likely to read and act upon this information when it’s given to them rather than if they had gone to a Web site and found the information themselves.
You also have to mitigate the threats that travel to a certain area presents so that there’s an acceptable level of risk for the employee. Risk mitigation, traveler tracking and monitoring world situations is imperative. You need to know if something is affecting your travelers, and be able to quickly locate and communicate with them in case of an emergency.
What are the benefits of mandating and managing travel effectively?
A well-formulated, well-implemented travel policy offers you savings, scrutiny and security. Savings are immediate in terms of leveraging preferred suppliers. Once your data has been aggregated by a travel management company, you can approach car rental companies, hotels and airlines for negotiated discounts. A consolidated policy ensures all tickets and transactions are managed against the suppliers and policies you establish.
Scrutiny is examining both the aggregated data, as well as trends within the industry to identify gaps or employee noncompliance. This allows you then to refine the policy, identify employees not following the policy, and address lost savings. The data then becomes an invaluable management analysis tool.
Security is a major concern for most companies, especially after recent events such as the Sept. 11 attacks, recent Airbus crashes and natural disasters. Corporations need to know where their travelers are and exactly how they’re getting there. You need to be able to immediately access all of your traveling employees in case an emergency arises. You can’t do this unless you have a policy in place. You need to be prepared at all times.
John L. Sturm is executive director of sales and marketing at Professional Travel Inc. Reach him at (440) 734-8800 x4089 or firstname.lastname@example.org