Travel is emotional. Time spent away from family affects people’s lives directly. Being compensated with some time to go shopping on a Tuesday doesn’t equal going swimming with the family on a Sunday. It can also affect travellers in subtle ways that are not so obvious.
Sound policy for one company may be inappropriate for another. Economy class may not affect the effectiveness of travellers who work for a company where long-haul trips are only for internal meetings but could well do for lawyers whose meetings can produce sizeable client fees.
Here are examples of where travel policies might be less than optimal and how you can win by recognising the hidden effects of elements of your travel policy.
Class of travel
Class of travel is a central pillar of travel policy but business travel no longer automatically means business class. Eligibility for premium classes has historically depended on length of journey and/or seniority. After the 2008 global economic downturn many companies reduced the number of employees eligible or shaved a few hours of flight duration in their policies to save money.
Is this the best way to get maximum return on investment from business travel? Does a premium class benefit a senior manager to the same extent when they travel for a short meeting at which a multi-million dollar contract is at stake as when travelling for a week-long training course?
Some organisations build varying trip objectives into their policies. Specifying that travellers are eligible for a higher travel class than usual if they are expected to conduct business within three hours of landing is one example.
Many companies opt for connecting flights on routes to control costs. A long sprint through an unknown airport to catch the next leg may not be suitable for older travellers or pregnant women. A review of who qualifies for direct flights could improve traveller welfare.
A good policy might specify lowest logical fare rather than the lowest fare possible
In an era of traveller centricity policies of rate ceilings or per diems are becoming more popular. Travellers can choose properties that match their own tastes and preferences rather than a preferred hotel that has a great rate but no gym.
But how often does your organisation review the suitability of these caps? Demand and supply for accommodation in a city can change for all kinds of external reasons from a large business hotel closing for refurbishment to a terrorist incident.
However, rate caps can have unintended consequences. If the cap is not reviewed regularly, there is a danger that travellers will be forced into less suitable hotels that may increase traveller risk by being in less safe neighbourhoods. There may be justification for having a seasonal rate cap that takes into account things such as trade fairs and sporting events that can dramatically charge dynamic hotel rates.
Processes which aim to ensure people are not travelling needlessly or extravagantly are common. A manager’s approval before the money is spent is preferable to an inquisition afterwards. However, many companies have a casual or lengthy approval process which can result in the fare rising between travel request and booking.
Reviewing and refining the approval process could increase traveller satisfaction. Policy should clarify which travellers need approval for which kinds of trips.
Duty of care
Organisations that expect their travellers to go to so-called “risky destinations” should consider including relevant detail in the travel policy. Reminding people of pre-trip requirements such as inoculations and destination information and detailing what to do in the event of a natural disaster or political incident will promote traveller safety and well-being.
Your travel policy might also need to include differentiation between road warriors and first-time travellers to these destinations. What may be obvious to one may not be obvious to another and novice business travellers might need more guidance on local conditions and safe behaviour.
Is it time to give your travel policy a health check?