A recent report found that half of travel managers hold in-person meetings to communicate travel policy, while in contrast just 20% of travellers said their policies were explained in-person. Does this indicate a corporate communication problem that could have financial and duty of care consequences? If so, how should travel managers combat this?
Entitled ‘Travel Policy Communication: Understanding Disconnects and Increasing Compliance’, the report was collated by the GBTA Foundation, the business travel industry research organisation, and HRS, the hotel booking portal provider. It identifies business traveller perspectives on company travel policies, compliance and valued amenities. It is based on the responses of 492 frequent business travellers, half from North America, half from Europe.
One of the most striking findings was the discrepancy between travel managers’ and business travellers’ communication experiences. The findings indicate that travel managers are not communicating travel policy in a memorable way in person. This is particularly important as the study also found that the majority of millennials (51%) prefer to learn about company policies at an in-person meeting.
This could lead to employees deviating from travel policy. For instance, travellers may use ride-sharing services such as Uber, which may be out-of-policy due to the travel risk management complications sharing economy services create. Alternatively, travellers may book accommodation that exceeds travel budget guidelines.
In the report, Kate Vasiloff, Director of research at the GBTA Foundation, underlines this finding:
“While the travel professional’s account may be more reliable in determining how travel policy is communicated, what matters is the traveller perception and recollection since their actions can have duty of care and cost implications for the company. It is not a lack of desire or willingness to follow company guidelines that drives out-of-policy booking, it is a lack of understanding caused by a breakdown in communication between the travel professionals and the traveller.”
Tips for Improved Travel Policy Communication
Communication is absolutely essential to ensure you carry out your duty of care obligations and oversee business travel within budget. As the report suggests, it may be preferable to some travellers that these communications occur in-person, but meetings must be conducted effectively. The following tips for travel managers will help ensure meetings about travel policy leave a more lasting impression on employees:
- Complement travel policy meetings with follow-up emails that serve as a recap of the key policies discussed.
- Hold pre-travel briefings for employees straight after booking, to explain policy specifically in relation to the destination of travel.
- Do not direct ‘blanket’ meetings to all employees – messages are often disregarded if deemed irrelevant. Have targeted meetings, so the right information is provided to those who need it at the right time.
- Listen to traveller feedback and use meetings as opportunities to review your travel program
- Conduct travel risk assessments whenever useful or necessary.
Even if travellers are fully informed and your travel programme takes all appropriate measures to minimise travel risk, the unexpected is always possible. It’s vital that you have clear procedures in place to deal with travel emergencies, which encompass communication strategy, response planning and technological processes. Download our comprehensive guide on how to prepare for unplanned travel emergencies.