Why every company should have a travel policy
Almost every company requires some element of travel in modern business. For each and every one of those companies – small or large – there should be a clear travel policy in place. Employees should be aware of the travel policy from as soon as they start work with the company, and old employees should be informed of it, and kept up to date if anything changes.
Get the company travel policy right and you’ll not only save the business a huge amount of time and money but you’ll have more satisfied staff, as they’ll know where they stand when travelling for work.
From my experience as a travel manager for a global company, working for an airline for whom I pitched to be on corporate preferred supplier lists, and now running an SME travel recruitment agency I suggest thinking about the following when writing and setting up your corporate travel policy:
- Manage and control spend: Travel spend is often the second-largest outgoing for a business after employee costs. In a clearly outlined travel policy you can use your buying power as a company to negotiate discounted rates with suppliers. Many suppliers, including airlines are willing to set performance targets. Should benchmarks be met, you may receive a revenue kick-back from your supplier, with the more you spend offering greater financial return. You therefore need explain to employees why they should use the certified suppliers, and should ensure you don’t allow maverick employees to go off-piste from the policy. The way to do this is to make the policy attractive to your employees. If you insist they always use Ryanair and stay in Premier Inns, they’re not going to be too excited.
- Control the quality of suppliers: Think about the quality of hotels, airlines and other travel suppliers. Consider things like how punctual an airline is; do flight times best meet the needs of the business; does an airline fly to the most convenient airport; how consistent is a hotel brand with their product delivery. Don’t pick the bottom of the pile – but equally do your research before you pick a big expensive name. It may not be the best bet.
- Duty of care: Your employees should know from your travel policy that you will demonstrate a duty of care towards them while on business travel trips. They will be able to call you with problems, and someone will help solve those issues. They shouldn’t feel stranded while away. You should always know where they are when travelling, and they must know who to call, and when.
- Be clear: It might sound straightforward, but it’s difficult to hold employees to account for non-adherence if they don’t know the rules. Some companies include the travel policy in their handbook, some on the internal intranet whereas others have their booking tools and relationship with their travel agent so finely tuned that they don’t need to refer to any policy. We’d advise letting every new employee know how the travel policy works as soon as they join.
- Emergencies: All employees need to know what to do in an emergency while travelling.
- How to book a trip: Every employee needs to know how to book a trip. Who do they contact if they’re not booking themselves – this is where a travel manager could come in handy; is it direct with certified suppliers; through a travel management company (TMC) or company travel agent; or is it a mix of using a booking tool for simple bookings and phone call for more complex bookings.
- Expenses: Who signs off travel spend. Each employee must know what’s allowed, and who is in charge of expenses, and does the company have corporate credit cards or are employees expected to pay and then claim back. This is only viable for small amounts, and employees must be reimbursed promptly.
A good travel policy attracts good candidates
A well put-together travel policy that isn’t all about cost savings, but is also about treating employees well and with respect can attract top-rank candidates for any new roles in your company. It’s worth mentioning at interview for this reason. If the potential good employee knows that you don’t just treat travel as a commodity but as an experience, this may bode well for them joining your team.
A travel policy should have a certain element of luxury. It’s unhelpful for different levels of the business to have vastly different experiences of business travel. Employees should see travel as more of a perk than a hindrance. The policy should demonstrate that you understand your duty-of-care when an employee is travelling on business.
Corporate credit cards & expenses Apps
Most larger companies will issue corporate cards to employees who travel regularly so they can easily marry their spend with statements without being out-of-pocket. Not all employees with SME’s have this facility so you need to decide whether all travel is booked centrally or whether employees must use their own card and file expenses. If they are using their own card it is essential that every employee keeps a track of their receipts. Personally, I use an App for keeping track as there is nothing worse than returning from a trip with a bundle of receipts. Apps are also great for the finance department as they can claim back taxes that can be reimbursed.
How to enforce a travel policy
What do you do, if, for example, certain staff members like to book their favourite airline or hotel, without adhering to the travel policy? The way to do this is through communication. As we’ve said before, discuss the perks of sticking to the policy – upgrades, for example, and make the policy attractive. Also explain that if they don’t’ book through the correct channels, fixing things in an emergency can be more difficult.
If an employee refuses to adhere to the travel policy, start by giving them personal training in how to use it, and ensure they know the proper lines of communication to book travel. But if they won’t listen then it should be a breach of contract, and verbal and written warnings, and in extreme cases dismissal must come into play. If it’s not enforced it has no authority.
When I was a travel manager with a large multi-national we would invite all our preferred suppliers to roadshows all over the UK. They could then interact with businesses and talk directly to employees to demonstrate the benefits of using their services.
Combining business travel trips with personal holidays
Some companies don’t believe this is acceptable. At Progressive Travel Recruitment I embrace this as long as it is in line with local tax law. For example, some of my team may need to travel to a client in Edinburgh on a Friday and the following week meet another client in Glasgow on Monday. I see no point in them travelling back home just to return the following week. It not only saves the company revenue, but creates enjoyment. As long as you’re clear what can be claimed on expenses and what can’t, it makes sense to let your employees enjoy their work lives as much as possible.
Depending on the size of the company, your travel department might consist of an office manager within the SME who has many other duties, or for large companies the travel department could be a global team of 50. Either way, your employees need to know where they can access your policy, who they should communicate with about travel, be informed if you tweak the policy eg add a new supplier, changes to VISA rules, information about natural disasters, or anything else. And employees must be assured that someone knows where they are at any given time.