Achieving a high level of compliance is where a comprehensive, straightforward travel policy can make a difference, panelists said during the discussion T&E Policy: Implementation and Compliance on Thursday at ISM’s inaugural T&E Conference in Miami. Carol McDowell, manager of corporate travel services for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, says a travel policy should be written in a friendly format with a tone of “should do” rather than “don’t do”.
McDowell echoes Frederic Khalil, former chief procurement officer for Guardian Life, that a policy is not the end all, be all for travel decisions: “Going strictly by the policy is not necessarily the right thing to do every time. You must be able to process exceptions and approvals for situations outside the policy guidelines.” For example, if an employee travels overseas and the hotel conditions are unacceptable, there should be flexibility to stay at another property outside the approved list.
Scott Schneider, senior global travel commodity manager for Tyco, says an effective travel policy requires clear language, parameters, consensus and buy-in from users, as well as executive sponsorship. Why consensus, buy-in and sponsorship? Without it, a travel policy could take months or a year, says Schneider, before all stakeholders have a chance to review it. And when the document returns to procurement, it resembles little of the original document. Having buy-in from the beginning enables quick approval and acceptance of the policy — and a higher level of compliance throughout the company.
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The panel agreed that a travel policy is a living document that needs to be revised as travel trends in the marketplace occur, such as the emergence of providers like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. For Tyco, travel policies are rewritten every five years and updated every two years. During both of those time frames, Schneider says, Tyco surveys its travelers to gauge how the company’s travel management is performing as well as collect opinions on Tyco’s own policies before any policy changes occur. McDowell at Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a similar procedure, certifying the policies every two years with an accompanied survey.
And while policy development and enforcement were leading discussion points, the topic of risk management was equally important. In Tyco’s case, with more than 60,000 employees and US$150 million in travel spend, knowing which employees are traveling where and when is critical. For this reason, human resources, global security and C-level executives are part of the team making travel policy decisions and recommendations.
Despite greater adoption of trends such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb in the marketplace, these options represent potential security concerns for companies and their employees who travel. Companies need to know where their employees are and the travel services they’re using. Without that knowledge, it poses both a security and liability issue for companies. Hence, a company’s risk management team is often involved in negotiations with travel suppliers to ensure insurance and security concerns meet expectations.
A travel policy requires the same due diligence and attention to detail as a strategic supplier contract. There should be no shortcuts when crafting policies around the safety of employees.