If you work at an SME where travel and expense management is overseen by administrators or human resources, and that individual is you, then you might be worried that you’re not exactly the best person to manage travel arrangements.
Travel management is, admittedly, complicated and time-consuming. However, there are a few things you can do to make your travel management work easier, both for yourself and for the company’s teams. Here are five top tips for travel and expense management if you’re not a trained travel manager.
1. Lay out your travel policy in a way that’s clear and easy for employees to understand.
If you really want employees to comply with the organization’s travel policy (and what company wouldn’t?), then you need to lay out that travel policy in a way that employees can understand. They shouldn’t be bogged down with technical language or confusing instructions. Instead, think about your end goal (compliance) and how to best convince others (employees) to help you reach that goal. How can you do that through your policy-related messaging?
In addition, be as specific regarding your policy as possible. If there’s only one travel booking platform that you allow travelers to use, if there are only specific hotel partners that you work with, spell that out for your employees. Specificity is your friend.
Better yet, lay out those specific, need-to-know details as bullet points. Some employees are bound to skim your briefing, and you want them to get the most important details, at least.
2. Review your travel policies regularly.
If you’re working with a travel policy that hasn’t been updated in a while, or ever, make sure you’re giving it a look on a regular basis. The needs of business travelers change often, and you want to be sure that your travel policies reflect those needs, as well as the needs of the company.
When should you conduct these reviews? As you bring on multiple new hires or the company scales up, those situations usually call for a review, as needs change both on the employees’ end as well as the company’s end.
3. If you need to update your travel policy, specify why, as well as your goals.
Let’s say you give your travel policy a quick review and decide that it definitely needs to be updated. While you might be able to easily clarify why and what’s wrong with the existing policy, also specify your goals for creating a new policy.
Maybe you want to see a greater business travel ROI. Or you want to improve traveler safety and/or duty of care. Maybe you want to make business travel a greater part of your company culture, and so you want to adjust the policy to better serve travelers’ needs. Whatever your goal is, specify and then adjust the travel policy so that it both eliminates existing problems and works toward your future goals.
4. Don’t keep your travel policy stuck in the past.
If you work for a company that drafted its very first travel policies five, 10 or 20 years ago, then they’re likely stuck in the past. Business travel looked extremely different in 2003 than it does now, and your travel policy should reflect the latest trends, travel preferences and market.
What does this look like, more specifically? Well, for example, your business travelers may now be more interested in bleisure travel, a trend that combines leisure and business into one trip and that has been growing in popularity among employees over the last decade or so. If your company allows for bleisure travel, your policy should reflect that accurately.
Likewise, with the advent of home rentals and the multiple booking platforms that provide them, your travelers may be more interested in staying in one of these properties during their trip, versus a standard business travel hotel. Airbnbs and similar properties offer lots of perks that business travelers won’t find in a hotel. Perks such as extra room to spread out and get some work done (or just relax after a day of meetings) and more privacy. As such, you may want to adjust your policy to allow for home rental bookings, as well as hotel stays.
Keep a finger on the pulse of the latest business travel trends, so you can anticipate what your business travelers will need and accommodate them accordingly.
5. Communicate with your stakeholders
Don’t work on your travel policies while in a bubble. You’ll want to consistently communicate with any stakeholders to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, including your own as the designated travel manager.
Talk to the business travelers within your organization, HR (if you’re in admin and not HR) and executives and your C-suite, including CEOs and CFOs, to learn what kind of solutions are needed. You may want to do some discovery meetings with these stakeholders before you begin drafting a new travel policy or updating an existing policy. Then, after that policy is drafted, you may want to meet with stakeholders again, before finalizing your policy and beginning to implement it.
Need more help?
All of the above can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you were never really hired for travel and expense management in the first place. If your area of expertise is office administration or human resources, then you may not know the first thing about travel policy drafting or compliance enforcement.
Luckily, JTB Business Travel is here to help. Our robust suite of business travel services includes everything from cost savings programs to duty of care services, trip disruption assistance to overall travel management. Let’s talk today to see how we can help your SME get a handle on its travel and expense management, so you can focus on your broader role, instead of getting bogged down in all the nitty-gritty details of corporate travel.