Designing a Travel Policy that Fits Your Corporate Culture

By Jessica Larkin

Peeling Back the Layers of the Onion to Ensure a Good Fit

This is the second post in a three-part series focused on corporate travel policies and the role of technology. The first blog, Essential Travel Policy Parameter and Why They Matter, can be found here. Stay tuned for part three, which will focus on employee FAQs.

Corporate travel policies are implemented to help manage budgets and provide clear guidelines for their employees to refer to when it comes to time and expense reporting, reimbursement, booking guidelines, traveler safety, security, and more. However, when it comes to policy creation, one-size-fits-all is definitely not the name of the game.

Think about it, no two companies share the same organizational culture and business goals, and within that company, there are employees required to travel at varying amounts, and certain norms that aren’t necessarily understood by outsiders.

At TravelBank, we believe flexibility is key and have created features within our app to accommodate all types of travel scenarios, seniority levels, real-time budgeting, and customizable approval processes. The purpose of including a vast array of options is to allow your company to implement technology-supported travel policies that truly fit the culture of your organization, put employees first, and to ensure compliance.

Understanding Organizational Culture: Schein’s Model

The culture of your company not only encompasses its mission, vision, and values, but also is expressed through interactions, inter-workings and expectations. It is influenced by customs, social norms, and shared values that are developed over time.

One definition offered by Edgar Schein of MIT’s Sloan School of Management is that organizational culture is: a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.

We find Schein’s model to be especially interesting when it comes to developing a travel policy because he relates organizational culture to peeling back the layers of an onion and defines three distinct levels of organizational culture:

Artifacts

Think of artifacts as the outer layer of the onion, what you can see at first glance. These are the characteristics of an organization that can easily be heard, seen, and felt, including dress code, branding, office furniture, mission, and values. All of the aforementioned items have influence on the culture of a company.

Espoused Values

The next layer of the onion encapsulates the espoused values of an organization. These are values elevated by the company’s leadership and include corporate strategy, goals, and philosophies. At this level, it is worth noting that just because a CEO claims that his/her company values something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is reflected by the behavior of employees. However, the values do play a role in the culture of an organization.

Basic Assumptions

At the center of the onion are the basic assumptions of an organization. Based on Schein’s model, this final layer of organizational culture includes the underlying and often unconscious determinants of attitudes, thought processes, and actions. It is the values of the employees working at the company and has a deep impact on culture. This layer is very difficult to quantify, as the beliefs are typically only observable from an insider level and largely influenced by human nature. According to Schein, “Values that gain long-term acceptance often become so ingrained and taken-for-granted that individuals are usually unaware of their influence.”

Collaboration is Key

So why all this talk of onions, values, and the inner-workings and beliefs of a company? Quite simply because this model exemplifies why it is important to create a travel policy that fits the culture of your organization. No two organizations are alike, therefore, adopting a travel policy carte-blanche from the internet or an outside consultant isn’t advisable. Sure, it’s great to do your research, get outside perspectives, or work with a consultant, but at the end of the day, it’s important to include your team in the process.

We highly recommend cross-functional collaboration when it comes to creating your corporate travel policy. It’s imperative to get key stakeholders from across your organization involved and suggest including not only members of human resources and finance, but also your business travelers. The road warriors of your organization understand better than anyone what will drive employee satisfaction, and in return, enhanced compliance, and a happy workforce when it comes to travel for work. Get business travelers involved from the get-go, and keep them involved throughout the entire process, using their knowledge to inform the decisions you make along the way. All stakeholders need to come to the table to come up with a policy that works for everyone.

Key stakeholders for developing a travel policy that fits your company culture

The cross-functional team should review benchmarks, trends, and travel norms as part of the policy creation process. In this phase, it is also essential to think about how technology can assist in employee satisfaction, compliance, reporting, and budgets. In addition to the policy you create, it is also essential to find a travel management company that streamlines processes and supports your corporate culture.

Key features to think about on the technology front include a multi-platform availability (i.e. available for both desktop and mobile), an intuitive UX, saving incentives that reward employees for staying within budget, and amazing 24/7 traveler support. Guess what?! The TravelBank apps combines all of these features with field-tested best practices.

Building a Travel Policy Where Everybody Wins

It is 100% possible to build a travel policy that fits into the culture of your organization, increases employee satisfaction, maximizes compliance and reduces spend. Whether you have already implemented a travel policy and are seeking technology to support it, or if you are in the fledgling phases of designing one, we are here to help. Let’s schedule a time to discuss how TravelBank can support a travel policy that aligns with the culture of your organization.

In the meantime, check out guide, Building a Flexible Travel Policy: How to Reduce Spend by Putting Employees First.

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