Business travelers hop into cabs, take to the airways and check into hotel rooms day in and day out. They’re meeting with clients, consulting with business partners, and possibly even burning the midnight oil while they’re in a faraway city. They’re out there working hard for the company, and from buying cups of coffee to paying checked-baggage fees, they’re racking up expenses at every turn.
To make sure they’re keeping track of their spending—and upholding the integrity of your T&E policy—it helps to involve employees in the travel planning process. Here are some tips to get everyone on the same page so you can manage costs and maximize their time away from the office:
Review Your Travel Policy
When was the last time your travel managers or accounts payable team reviewed your company’s travel policy with employees? Ideally, this document should be updated regularly and immediately shared with departmental managers and their travelers. Invite employees to revisit your policy by making it easily accessible—via video or a slideshow on your Intranet, for instance—and encourage them to ask questions pertaining to upcoming trips. You want to establish that your T&E guidelines are put in place to make business travel both profitable and comfortable, and to set expectations with respect to which expenses are reimbursable and what they’ll need to file a complete and timely expense report.
For more insights, explore Why Create a Travel Expense Policy (and how to do it).
Define and Discuss Trip Goals
Try to avoid sending employees off into the field without clear business—and spending—objectives. If they’re conducting a sales seminar to recruit new clients, should they treat their most promising leads to dinner and drinks at the most expensive local eatery? Do you expect employees to make cold calls while on the road, schedule meetings with prospective clients, or get their usual deskwork done in their hotel room? Help them make choices that help them stay productive and efficient—and show them how their spending choices affect the company’s bottom line.
Last-minute business trips are a reality, and all too often they result in higher-than-usual travel costs. While there’s not much you can do to control pricing in the eleventh hour, planning early when you can enables you to take advantage of good pricing and a wider range of options. Even if your company has a dedicated employee or travel agency to make travel arrangements and stay on top of prices, deals, and discounts—but make sure business traveler is in the loop. Offer them incentives to look into local hotels, restaurants, meeting places, and even transportation alternatives that might be more cost-efficient.
Automate Your Processes
Technology tools help employees on the road (and the people back in the office) maximize their productivity. And today, that means moving away from manual processes with user-friendly solutions that streamline expense management administration. Identify the sticking points in your existing workflows and look into the capabilities of your accounting and ERP systems to see where you can start automating. As a next step, turn to a cloud-based software solution to fully customize your process to your needs. You can enable your business travelers to create and submit expense reports from their mobile device, their managers to approve them, and your accounting team to release their reimbursement funds—all with a push of a few buttons.
At the end of each business trip, encourage your employees to assess their experience. Was the time and money well spent? Use their feedback to improve your T&E policies or the way you communicate them, and look for ways to cut costs or improve employee productivity on similar trips in the future.
With so much going into your employees’ travel plans—and coming out of your corporate travel budget to make it all happen—make sure you optimize your processes and make it easy for travelers to do their part. Following these guidelines is a great way to start.