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Five reasons for getting a better grip on staff travel

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According to Aberdeen, travel and entertainment expenses encompass eight to 12 per cent of the average organisation’s total payroll. No wonder then that businesses seek to control it.

But the trouble is, business travel isn’t easily managed. It’s not a commodity. Travel is personal and we’ all have our own preferences. Organisations that try to procure it as a standard package and enforce highly restrictive policies will create friction with their staff. Frequent travellers will feel oppressed. Maybe they’ll leave, or they’ll ignore policy and self-book via the myriad of consumer travel sites available, then reclaim the cost on their expenses. So what’s the solution to managing travel effectively?

Some organisations have given in. Many firms with high numbers of “Generation Y and Z” staff and their predilection for using their mobile devices for everything, have accepted a laissez-faire style “open-booking” policy allowing staff to arrange their own travel however they like, typically via consumer travel sites. But this is at significant cost and loss of control to the business.

More forward thinking bosses have found that there’s another way. They’ve discovered corporate travel and expense (T&E) platforms. These self-booking tools allow the organisation to prescribe travel policy, whilst enabling the traveller to still choose from a very wide range of services. The employee is won-over by being able to still create and self-book the itinerary they want via their mobile device and by their amazement that an entire door-to-door itinerary can be arranged in just seconds. 

Taxi and car-hire services through rail travel, flights, hotels and even parking is logically proposed by such platforms, some of which also learn the individual’s personal preferences, becoming something of a mobile personal travel assistant. Some platforms can support “new age” services too, like Airbnb and Uber if the use is within your corporate policy.

T&E platforms are one way forward. But whichever route you choose to ensure managed travel is successful with your staff, here are five reasons why a laissez faire policy will bite you back, and why you really must manage staff travel.

(1) Duty of care

Recent incidents in Paris, airline disasters and people falling ill. Firms need to know where staff are to provide support in an emergency. You won’t reach them quickly if you’ve no managed program and they haven’t communicated their detailed itinerary. Firms in most countries have a legal obligation when it comes to duty of care, including for staff away on assignments. Those sending staff to high-risk destinations have higher responsibilities. You really must know where your staff are.

(2) To reduce your travel spend

Mature organisations understand that controlling the way employees purchase travel related items is a better route to taming spend, than attempting sometimes to freeze it. If you’ve adherence to a managed travel program, you can guide employees toward your preferred suppliers and to negotiated fares. Switch to an online corporate travel platform and you could cut travel management company fees by up to 45 per cent.

(3) Boost staff productivity – part one

Coordinating and booking travel and accommodation yourself by trawling manually through web sites, can take hours, especially for trips of multiple destinations. And do you need a manager’s approval for the expense? That’s all a big work distraction for your staff and a hit to your firm’s productivity. Win allegiance to a managed program presented via a corporate travel platform and staff can plan, have approved and self-book trips in minutes.

(4) Boost staff productivity – part two

Claiming expenses post trip is another drain on productivity. When a managed travel program is accompanied by an online corporate travel platform with an automated expense module, then the overall time organisations spend on expenses is typically reduced by 43 per cent. Research from PayStream Advisors established that cost savings of 16 Euros per expense claim are possible across the administration lifecycle.

(5) Ensure data protection

Travel related communication can be very sensitive. Think credit card numbers and personal information being entered online, then where it’s stored and who might access it. Such data shows who is away from home, when and for some organisations travel itineraries are commercially sensitive.

Corporate travel management in the age of mobile savvy young travellers isn’t easy. But rather than letting go and leaving staff to surf consumer sites and book as best they can, find a way for both sides to win. For many firms the way ahead is a modern travel and expense management platform.

Stanislas Berteloot is the marketing director at KDS.

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