4 Steps to an Effective Business Travel Review

By Jessica Sillers

Reviewing company policies is one of those tasks that’s easy to lose on a perpetual back burner. This is even more true when it comes to programs that are only active at certain points in the year, like a travel program for many companies. Letting review and improvement fall by the wayside means leaving money on the table or missing out on important opportunities for your business. If it’s been a while since you last updated your travel policy, read on to learn how to make the most of a review.

Creating an Effective Travel Policy

The first step to a successful business travel program is putting your rules in writing, if you haven’t already. The goal is to balance the company’s and travelers’ best interests to promote safe, convenient travel within the company’s budget. Your first step is double-checking that you’ve covered the basics as far as transportation, accommodation, meal and expense reimbursement, and listing costs that aren’t reimbursable (like childcare or maybe parking tickets).

A travel policy isn’t a “one and done” task, though. The travel industry changes all the time. The sharing economy elevated what was once considered couch-surfing to a potentially business-friendly option with services like Airbnb. Airlines introduce new seat classes, like Economy Plus or Premium Plus. Add guidelines about new industry developments to keep your policy clear and current.

Who Does Your Travel Policy Serve?

Successful corporate travel programs find a middle ground that meets both the company and travelers’ needs. If your policy is unbalanced, you can end up with budget issues or employee burnout.

On the company end, the best business travel plan is often (but not always!) the cheapest. Even a few trips can feel like a meaningful expense on the company’s budget. On the traveler side, convenience is king. Especially for frequent travelers, upgraded flights and accommodations can play a role in morale, productivity, and reducing burnout and turnover.

When you conduct your review, gather feedback from employees in various departments for a more rounded perspective. Ask finance managers about budget compliance. Ask your top-performing traveler how he or she stays refreshed on the road. Ask in-office leadership about bottlenecks in the booking process, and if it’s easy to stay compliant or if they find themselves fielding frequent requests for exceptions from parts of the policy.

How Does Travel Contribute to Business Growth?

You may plan business trips for a variety of reasons. Meeting with prospective clients and partners, attending an industry event, or inspecting a factory or ancillary office are only a few reasons to get on a plane. But when was the last time you formally assessed whether a trip was worth the effort?

Part of your travel policy review can incorporate a high-level look at how well travel is achieving its intended goal. Are you closing deals, making valuable contacts, or strengthening brand reputation at events? Can you draw a connection between trips and business revenue, or any awards or recognition? Which kinds of trips have resulted in the best outcomes?

Minimizing spend doesn’t always need to be the top priority for a travel program review. If corporate travel is leading to major opportunities, it could make sense to spend considerably more on travel in the coming year. You need to tie any program back to company goals and intended results to see if it’s working successfully, and travel is no exception.

How Can You Improve the Policy?

By now, you should have a sense of strengths and weaknesses in the travel policy. The next step is to develop and implement improvements.

Some changes can be relatively minor. Clarifying a point that’s caused confusion or compliance issues is one example. Or you might be introducing an incentive program to share cost savings with frugal travelers. Small tweaks can add up to big results in terms of traveler satisfaction and productivity on the road.

If the best business strategy is to increase travel or add new kinds of trips, you might be looking at bigger modifications to travel policy. If employees will take long-haul flights for the first time, for example, you might need to add ticket booking guidelines for these trips.

Ultimately, your business travel review should lead to solutions for a stronger travel policy. When you ask the right questions and follow through with changes, you may be rewarded with closer tie-ins to company goals and happier business travelers.

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