If noncompliance with your travel policy is an unfortunate reality, you’re not alone. A survey conducted by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives revealed that 72 percent of travel managers are dissatisfied with the level of compliance.
Unnecessarily high travel costs undermine a company’s financial health, business goals and productivity. Here are five strategies for improving compliance.
#1 Find Out Why Compliance Is Low
A travel policy should be clear and dynamic. It should reflect the company culture, align with company objectives, and take into account employees’ needs and lifestyles. Maybe your existing policy needs a little tweaking.
Ask both longtime and new employees to read the policy and provide feedback. There will always be people who deliberately overstep the rules, but many do so unwittingly.
Complex per diems for foreign countries may be unclear. People may be unaware of cost-saving negotiations with certain vendors. Someone may book with a more expensive hotel because its location eliminates the need for cabs or a rental car.
Be willing to make changes. There are both well-intentioned mistakes and lame excuses. In either case, if you know why people are violating your policy, you can customize it to ensure that they comply going forward.
#2 Evaluate the Policy for User-friendliness
Is the policy clear and easy to digest in one sitting? Take a look at the document itself with fresh eyes; how it’s presented. Is it a long, overly wordy wall of text? Does it speak the employees’ language? Is it warm and supportive in tone, or could it come across as threatening? Maybe it could be more concise, more efficiently laid out or reader-friendly.
Next, review the content of the policy. Both travel and technology are changing all the time. The policy may need an update to address things like mobile apps, digital receipts or ride-sharing.
Airlines offer more options than ever, so travel tiers like economy, coach and business class may need redefining. Irrelevant, outdated information needs to go.
Does the policy address secondary expenditures like room service charges, entertainment and alcohol? Does it clearly explain the expense reporting process and let employees know when they can expect reimbursement?
Add a comprehensive FAQ section to clear up confusion. The policy should specify which rules are mandatory and which are somewhat flexible. Again, the policy should be compatible with company culture.
#3 Continually Communicate
The importance of ongoing communication cannot be overstated. It’s not enough to just circulate the policy once it’s approved. Get the word out.
Post it on as many channels as possible. If your expense management is automated, include the travel policy on that platform. If your pre-trip authorization process is automated, post link to the policy there too. Employees can easily access it every time they request a trip or do an expense report.
In addition to generously promoting the policy, ask for time to explain it at company-wide meetings. Schedule brief workshops to actively engage employees. See that the policy is thoroughly covered during the onboarding process for new hires. Explain changes as they occur.
This may create more work for you, but think of it as job security. A travel policy has to stay fluid and up to date.
You’ll probably encounter resistance to some changes, but transparency and positivity go a long way.
Justify new policies by drawing the big picture. When cost savings improve the bottom line, for example, there’s more to work with at bonus time. Further, travel policy changes may limit legal liability or make travel safer for employees.
In short, employees are more likely to cooperate if they understand the rationale behind a rule. Offer a grace period for complying with big changes that take some getting used to.
#4 Provide Incentives and Impose Consequences
People never outgrow their desire to be recognized for good behavior, so dangle a few rewards.
Consider staging a quarterly contest. The most compliant and frugal employee might receive a gift card, an occasional upgrade to first class or a share of the savings.
As for noncompliers, give them fair warning. If they continue to buck the system,
it may come down to imposing consequences for insubordination as outlined by company policy.
#5 Track Results
Intentionally tracking travel behavior and expenses — especially when employees know that you’re doing so — is a surefire way to improve compliance.
If your corporation uses automated software for its pre-trip approvals or expense management, leverage the data from these software systems to pinpoint which rules are being sidestepped. Look for both individuals and whole departments that need a firm reminder.
Patterns will start to emerge. The data will expose employees who are always making last-minute reservations or which supervisors have vague notions about what counts as a qualifying expense. Remember, out-of-policy bookings undermine the company’s overall health and success. This affects all employees. So, track whatever you can to identify where breakdowns are occurring.