Times are changing. The sharing economy is booming and shows no signs of slowing down. The new generation entering the workforce have a different mindset about business travel. They’re tech-savvy, they care more about going on trips that are personalized for them, and they’re all about mixing business and leisure. Increased compliance for companies means paying attention to how these business travelers are actually traveling.
The travel industry is constantly evolving. Even if your company’s travel policies worked in the past, it’s unlikely that they have the same efficiency rates as before. The good news is that updating your policies to fit these employee wants, while staying balanced with what your company needs, is possible.
Before we discuss a few travel policy details that you can change and their solutions, let’s talk about how your company and employees can benefit from updating your travel policies to fit everyone’s needs.
Increase employee productivity
When planning a business trip, it’s common for business travelers to spend hours searching for the best deals, booking those deals, collecting receipts, and filling out expense reports. That’s hours they could’ve been working on something that directly benefits your company’s bottom line.
Even if all of your workers aren’t tech-savvy, no one wants to feel like they’re not using their time efficiently. By updating your travel policy to include automated expense reports, and tools that simplify the booking and deal searching process, you give employees their time back to actually work on what you’re paying them to do.
An outdated policy might not take into consideration the sharing economy. Business travelers are increasingly finding popular travel companies such as Airbnb and Uber a more comfortable choice for when they travel or need to get around a city. Another problem that companies face when their policies are old is that it doesn’t include a booking system that combines all the cost-saving websites that travelers use.
When policies don’t align with your employees’ needs like comfort and convenience, they tend to ignore them, which leads to low compliance rates. Though it doesn’t seem this way, your employees aren’t purposely trying to undermine your policies. They’re just using companies or websites that work best with their needs.
By updating your policies to fit modern practices and popular companies that your travelers use, you lower the risk of them disregarding your travel policies. You’ll be able to see an increase in your compliance rates if you put a focus on business traveler satisfaction.
If it’s been a while since you updated your travel policy, you’re missing out on some serious money saving measures.
You can save money, for example, by automating expense reports. Not only will it increase productivity, but it can also provide you with insightful trends and patterns on what your employees are and aren’t spending money on. If over half of your business travelers are spending more in certain cities and less in others, then you can increase or decrease your budget for that city.
So, now that we’ve covered a few reasons why updating travel policies are in everyone’s best interest, here are some outdated policies and details that just might be cluttering up your travel management closet, and the solutions you need to tidy it up.
Outdated detail 1: Manager or agent books/micromanages travel
Sure, in the past, having your travel/office manager book every business trip was expected, and for the most part, there was no other option. They also had to report expenses, be available to travelers during emergencies or for any questions, while still finding the time to review reports and identify ways to save the company money.
While micromanaging every aspect of business trips might have worked before, there’s nothing about it that’s efficient now. A travel policy that requires this makes it difficult for trips to be personalized to each traveler’s needs or for a manager to focus on company growth.
Solution: Incorporate your travel policy inside a tool that automates travel management
An efficient corporate travel management automation tool will allow employees to book their own trips, automate expense reports, and provide 24/7 assistance to travelers. Namely, it’ll stop your managers from micromanaging everything and lets them be more productive with their time and focus on the growth of the company.
By incorporating your travel policy inside it, business trips can be planned and booked without travel managers needing to review every detail. This strikes a balance of giving travelers the freedom they want while companies get the control they need as you still have full visibility of business trips and travel spend. Business travelers can personalize their trips to their preference which helps maintain employee happiness and morale. Since your corporate travel management tool will automatically report expenses, your managers will have all the reports in one place and can make insightful interpretations of travel trends at your company.
When you update your policy to include self-booking and automated expense reports that can be achieved inside your travel management tool, you eliminate micromanagement and save money by freeing up your time to do the job you’re getting paid to do.
Outdated detail 2: Business only
A decade ago, a business trip was just that, nothing more. However, in the last few years with more millennials entering the work scene, a business trip is more than trying to close a deal or making connections at a conference. Now, instead of travelers going home immediately at the end of their trip, they’re staying a few more days, so they can explore the area and relax.
Though it was once frowned upon, bleisure trips are becoming more and more popular and truthfully, most employees are likely going to do it anyway. By trying to fight it, you can hurt employees’ morale which can lead to employees leaving the company for ones that understand this need.
Solution: Bleisure policy
Don’t fight against bleisure trips, instead, add a flexible bleisure policy. You’ll be surprised to know that the benefits actually outweigh the negatives. One benefit from adding a bleisure policy is you’ll have happier, more productive employees. We all know how stressful business trips can be, from the planning and packing to interacting with clients, business trips tend to leave you more drained than if you were to work 60 hours a week. Therefore, one reason that your employees spend additional time on their trip is so that they can unwind.
By adding this policy and freely letting your employees take additional time off, you’re allowing them to return to work refreshed. Now, instead of them spending their first day or two back to work unproductive and trying to readjust, they can return as if they never left.
Another benefit of a bleisure policy is that it’ll demonstrate to everyone that your company cares about the health and work-life balance of your employees which will lead to higher retention rates. Also, this is an irresistible benefit to mention during recruitment.
One problem that many companies face when they’re considering a bleisure policy is what to or not to include. While the nitty-gritty details depend on your company needs and values, the general rule is that you pay for the business portion of their trip, including the round trip, and employees pay for the leisure portion.
Also, you need to clearly define what you consider business and leisure and when it begins and ends. Your bleisure policy doesn’t have to feel like a hassle, just make sure to have everything documented in clear language and aligned with both company and employee needs.
Outdated detail 3: Lack of flexibility
Though this doesn’t refer to a specific policy, many companies’ travel policies are firm and have little to no wiggle room. Sometimes, employees need to travel immediately because a client they’ve been waiting to hear back from had an unexpected opening in their schedule, that trip would greatly benefit your company if they went and closed the sale.
However, if your policy doesn’t allow employees to travel when their trip isn’t booked weeks in advance, your company could miss out on an important partnership or deal. At other times, employees may request additional money for their budget because they know your allotted budget won’t cover all their expenses. However, since their request is likely to be out of policy, it will likely be declined.
Another factor could be that, your employees believe your preferred providers aren’t comfortable, safe, or convenient enough for them, so they book outside policy with providers that check off all their boxes.
Solution: Increase flexibility of travel policy
Whatever the situation is, what truly matters is that employees have more options available. When there are limited options for them to choose from and the ones available aren’t convenient or comfortable, you have low compliance rates.
The best way to see how to expand flexibility is by reviewing past requests or looking at trends that show you what employees actually want. Business travelers like the convenience and comfort they can find from renting an Airbnb or a cost-saving ride-sharing service like Uber. By including these companies in your policy or arranging an agreement with them, you give your employees choices that best align with their needs.
You’ll also need to change the parameters of your travel policy to account for different scenarios. By having a more flexible travel policy, you lower the risk of employees disregarding it, which will also increase compliance.
Will you review your travel policy to ensure it’s updated?
The bottom line is that policies that once may have worked are now probably outdated. They don’t take into account the mindsets of the younger generations entering the workforce or new companies that are changing the travel industry. The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” doesn’t apply here. If you don’t fix it, you could find your company always two steps behind its competitors and struggling to meet compliance.
However, by taking a step back and reviewing your travel policy, you might find sections that can be restructured to accommodate the changing travel industry landscaping. while keeping your employees satisfied, because a happy employee is a thriving one.