Corporate travelers will always have travel-related questions. How well does your business travel policy address these questions in advance?
Like the old adage “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission,” enforcement of best-in-class travel practices is most difficult when it reaches the reimbursement stage before a flag is raised.
If your business has an outdated business travel policy it may need a 2018-specific update. Key examples of how a travel policy can help control company costs are clarifications that commuting costs are not reimbursable and setting time in the air requisite for a class upgrade is allowed. However, updated travel policies need to weigh in on whether the following are allowed before items are submitted in expense reports:
- AirBnB and other home-sharing options for accommodations
- Car-sharing options, such as UberBlack or Lyft Lux
Business travel policies need to adapt with travel, to both anticipate issues and adjust as they arise. As such, an annual travel policy review and at least a biennial update are recommended. A successful policy is your travel Constitution, while it may not be written to address the specific minutiae or unusual situation that may arise, its terms should be able to guide the determination of what is allowed and what is not for your company.
Whether your company is large or small your business travel policy should be built to address the following top 3 business concerns for travelers.
Top 3 Points to Address with Corporate Travel Policy
Do you know where your travelers are? If your travel policy mandates booking through your TMC, you likely do, and if travelers booking outside the program are still being reimbursed, leakage is likely to be higher and your insight more limited. Are your travelers aware of what coverage your company provides when they travel? Has your corporate security department approved peer to peer accommodation, such as AirBnB or VRBO, lodging from a risk perspective? Do you have a limit of the number of employees that can travel together, i.e., on the same aircraft, at any given time?
When these questions come up, the answers should be in your corporate travel policy. This document protects your company from liability and guides your travelers toward safe, approved practices.
The corporate travel policy also guides your travelers toward reimbursable practices and guides your agents as well. Business travel policy acts as the rule book for the agent team and the programming for your online booking tool. How you control costs, and how you want to pursue savings, begins with determinations, such as instructing your travelers to book lowest logical hotel rate. Or, to book with your company’s preferred properties or airline partners to strengthen those relationships and savings, even when it’s not the lowest logical.
Also, this policy should outline at which point, or if ever, you allow your travelers to fly first class. Some businesses allow first class flights for flights that are six or eight hours. Does this total travel time include layover time? With travel industry changes including more business class on domestic flights, careful travel policy wording, such as “next class of service” as opposed to “first class”, can have significant impact on what your travelers are booking and travel costs.
The business travel policy, and the extent to which it is enforced, reflects the company culture, and it should be written with that culture in mind. Approvals, for instance, can become an unnecessary burden if approvers are not actually denying any travel requests.
Forcing travelers to fly long distances in a coach seat can result in unhappy travelers. The same goes for booking their stay at a property far from their destination or booking an inconvenient flight for the lowest logical rates. Every company’s travel policy decides where to draw the line between savings and satisfying their travelers, particularly their “road warriors.”
While drawing a hard line to improve savings may seem tempting, it can often create a push toward more exception requests and more leakage. You may find more travelers looking for forgiveness rather than permission. Best-in-class business travel policies find moderation.
Why Work with KesselRun Corporate Travel Consultants
Given the wide range of clients KesselRun has worked with in our years of corporate travel industry experience, it has worked with, advised on, and written numerous corporate travel policies. If your company is at a loss for what comprises a best-in-class travel policy, or what new policy questions and challenges arise during day-to-day travel and how other companies are handling them, KesselRun can fill you in.