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Managing the business travel approval process: five things to keep in mind

22 Apr 2021

Brought to you by TravelPerk, the #1 business travel platform.

Managing the business travel approval process: five things to keep in mind

The business travel industry is big business. In the US alone, domestic business trips are forecasted to rise to nearly 500 million by 2022. And while COVID-19 may have put a dent in business travel numbers, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is expecting to see a quick recovery in the next few years, with volumes surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 2025. As employees and clients tire of Zoom fatigue and written communication, many will be looking to get back to face-to-face contact—understandably so, since face-to-face requests have been shown to be 34 times more powerful than email. 

With a return to business travel coming up soon, this is the perfect time to streamline your company’s business travel approval process. Managing the approval process can be confusing, since each company has its own unique policy and multiple people may be involved. However, the business travel approval process doesn’t have to be difficult. By defining a clear policy, centralizing all your data in one place, and communicating clearly with business travel stakeholders, you can ensure everything runs smoothly. Here’s what you should do: 

1. Consult all relevant business travel stakeholders

The first place to start is to decide who will be part of your business travel approval process. This may look different depending on your organization’s size and structure. Small companies may have an informal travel policy and only one or two people to consult for travel approval. On the other hand, at a larger business, you may need to involve various people across different departments during the approval process.

Here are some examples of people who may be involved in the business travel approval process of a mid-sized to large company:

  • Administrators: An office travel manager or executive assistant in charge of booking business travel
  • Line managers: The manager of the person going on the business trip
  • Executives: Additional managers at the director or C-suite level
  • Finance: A representative from the finance department who handles business travel (from the perspective of travel costs)
  • HR: A representative from the HR department who handles business travel (from the engagement or compliance perspective)

Of course, you’ll want to only involve the people who are absolutely crucial, to avoid creating undue bureaucracy or delays. The important thing is to decide which “approvers” do need to be consulted for pre-trip approval of business travel, and make sure they’re in the loop all the way through the approval process. 

2. Create an organized business travel approval process

Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, the next step is to put together an organized plan for business travel. If you don’t yet have a company travel policy, this might be a good time to create one. To learn more, check out our e-book: “The Modern Guide to Writing a Company Travel Policy.”

Here are some factors to take into account when writing your company travel policy:

  • Who’s in charge of booking business travel? Employees, managers, an administrative assistant?
  • Do travelers need to fill out a request form?
  • What “approvers” need to be consulted for corporate travel approval?
  • How does spending work when on a business trip? Who sets and controls the budget?
  • How much advance notice is needed to approve a business trip?
  • What happens if there’s a last-minute business travel request?
  • Are only certain types of hotels, flights, etc. approved for travel booking? For example, can a traveler book a three-star or four-star hotel?
  • Is there a certain cabin class allowed for flights (first, business, economy?)

With TravelPerk, you can integrate your travel policy directly with the platform. This means business travelers can easily book their own trips while avoiding non-compliance with your company travel policy. If you need business travelers to send their trips to a manager before booking, you can set up that automated approval process in TravelPerk, too.

3. Manage things all in one place during the approval process

The key to an organized business travel approval process is to centralize everything in one place. If you have numerous documents, emails, and sticky notes flying around, you’re more likely to encounter problems with your business travel program.

Having a disorganized business travel approval process can cause many challenges for your business. For one thing, you may end up getting stuck in confusing back-and-forths that eventually lead to travel delays. For another, employees may not even be aware of your travel policies and what they are or aren’t allowed to do.

Using a centralized online booking tool like TravelPerk makes the business travel approval process easy, sparing your inbox and your sanity. 

4. Communicate the business travel approval process to people in your company

After creating a clear, centralized procedure, it’s important to make sure people in your business understand it. Everyone should know what is expected of them during the business travel approval process.

e sure to send out an internal announcement in a channel you know people will check. This may be email, chat software, or a company intranet. Spread the news via word of mouth as well (did you know news from just 4% of influential employees can end up reaching 70% of your company?)  

If you’ve invested in a business travel management software, you’ll also want to provide people with training. Fortunately, this becomes easier if the online booking tool you’ve chosen is highly usable and provides good support.

5. Automate your business travel approval process where possible

Finally, there’s a strong case to be made for automating your business travel approval process. Automation saves time and makes the whole process easily accessible, especially for remote and hybrid teams. Employee expectations for digitization are changing, especially post COVID-19. According to Workfront’s State of Work 2020 Report, 87% of respondents think leaders should reconsider the way they think about technology, 84% say businesses are missing opportunities by not moving to more modern solutions, and 91% say they crave modern technology solutions.  

Conclusion

While the business travel approval process may seem overwhelming when everything is done manually, this doesn’t have to be the case forever. By creating an organized plan, communicating it well, and using an automated, centralized system, you can change the way your company does business travel. 

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