I recently heard that a company is considering eliminating their global travel policy and their hard-won meetings sourcing policy mandates.
After the initial shock, I started to evaluate the pros and cons of such a move. What would I do?
Here’s the pros for eliminating or making current travel/meeting policies less restrictive:
- Improved traveler experience
- Less time and budget spent on auditing GDS loaded negotiated rates
- Elimination or reduced capacity for annual RFP processes
- Discontinuance of tracking and reporting employee compliance to policy
- Discontinuance of tracking and reporting cost savings, cost avoidance, preferred supplier revenue/market share
- Reduced or elimination of supplier reviews and meetings
- Reduction in costs for TMC services and outsourcing
- Reduction in costs for corporate overhead managing comprehensive global travel categories and preferred suppliers
And the cons for such a move:
- Less to no control or visibility of employee whereabouts and other Duty of Care concerns
- No visibility into total cost of travel per employee
- No visibility into employees and executives traveling together and mitigating corporate strategy exposure in case of catastrophic events
- No ability to leverage or negotiate better rates, discounts, terms and conditions due to overall corporate spend volumes
- No ability to leverage a corporate-supplier relationship for any issues or uniquely challenging situations
- No guarantee that the employees will be making the “right” travel purchasing decisions
- Zero ability to detect and correct fraudulent employee activities
- Zero insight into any legal contractual dealings between employees and any suppliers
- No ability to influence enforcement of spending guidelines
- Without policies or guidelines, you leave the interpretation of “Do the right thing” purely with the employee
Corporations must employ some kind of baseline for expected employee behavior – otherwise, expense management will quickly unravel.
Over the years, we’ve done ourselves a disservice by NOT updating travel and meetings policies to ensure relevance of the processes with our employees. We’ve added layers and layers of process – preferred suppliers compliance, “click here,” “go there,” “get a PO from overseas,” etc. – but forgotten about the human needs of the travelers. Having said that, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” so to speak. Policy and process simplification is extremely valuable in corporate travel.
I’ve been working in this industry for years (in both the corporate travel and meetings/events space), and I personally appreciate and recognize the value of corporate policies and effective policy governance. Employees NEED guidelines to ensure they are making the best travel choices not just for themselves, but for their employer. Employers need to ensure that their policies and processes aren’t putting employees in harm’s way, intentionally or unintentionally.
Corporations – especially publicly traded companies – need to be cost effective in order to produce the best EBITDA results for their shareholders.
Corporations also need some baseline of travel and meetings policies.
I propose a compromise – create policies that are not overly complicated and cumbersome, but still protect the business. Create processes that decrease traveler friction and enhance their purchasing decisions. Review your policies annually and check on its continued relevance to your stakeholders and corporate objectives.
You wouldn’t raise your children without parental guidelines, and you shouldn’t let your travelers make corporate funded choices without guidelines either.