T&E cost management can be difficult in quite a few ways for companies. First, there’s the issue of compliance. Most corporations have policies in place, but they may be hardly enforced, if at all. There’s also the issue of inconsistent enforcement or the feeling that there are different rules for different employees, even when there shouldn’t be.
In the past, another big issue was that employees didn’t enjoy business travel. Now, it’s viewed through a more favorable lens for the most part, and companies are creating policies that allow employees more leeway to incorporate both leisure and business during their trips. Some companies are even working to use corporate travel as a recruiting tool for young talent.
However, that shift toward the idea of combining business and pleasure during travel often leads to one big problem. How do you control costs in the face of these changes? Companies need an expense report solution and a policy that allows them to balance the employee experience, but also keep their costs under control. This is especially important since T&E expenses continue to rise and represent a significant chunk of most corporate budgets.
So how can that be done? How can organizations create a balance between the employee experience and keeping T&E costs under control?
The following are some ways to achieve a sense of balance regarding these two divergent objectives.
A lot of companies still don’t realize that the elements that can most quickly diminish the employee experience when it comes to corporate travel are the burdens of keeping up with expenses. Employees dread keeping all of their receipts, and then when they get back to the office having to fill out expense reports.
It’s a burden that’s not necessary to inflict on employees, and most of the more annoying aspects of expense management and expense reporting can be eliminated by offering employees automated and mobile solutions.
Clearly Define What’s Business and What’s Leisure
Employees tend to increasingly value the opportunity to have leisure time on business trips, but if your company doesn’t explicitly define what counts as each, then you can find your T&E expenses quickly spiraling out of control. Employees won’t feel like their corporate travel experience is diminished if they know upfront what to expect and what’s what.
It would likely be much more unappealing for many employees to be unsure of what the rules are as they head into a travel experience, and then to find out later they’re facing issues of noncompliance.
Business travelers in the modern era value freedom and flexibility, sometimes above all else. What businesses have to understand is that they can deliver a sense of freedom and flexibility, but at the same time keep prices under control.
A good way to do this is to have firm travel policies and budgetary guidelines, but offer options within those parameters. For example, use portals that allow employees to book their own travel plans, as long as they’re within the framework that the business creates. Then it’s a win-win.
As much as possible, offer flexibility to corporate travelers if you want to maintain a positive experience from their perspective.
Reframe How Budgets Are Enforced
Something some companies are doing is rather than putting all their focus on punishing non-compliance, they’re putting more focus on rewarding compliance and coming in under budget. If a company can put the idea of staying on or under budget in a more positive light, it’s going to create a better employee experience but also control costs.
Gamification is a way that companies can do this. They can create a fun challenge that rewards employees who stick to policies and remain compliant, rather than only putting efforts toward identifying and punishing noncompliance.
Finally, among Millennials there is a sense that they’d rather have experiences than things. Think about this with travel planning. You might want to incentivize employees and ensure they have positive corporate travel experiences by incorporating things they can do while they’re there. For example, organize a group tour for employees while they’re overseas. This can be extremely cost-effective, and it can significantly improve the overall experience for employees while they’re away.
It is possible to balance the employee travel experience with cost control, but you have to be strategic and know what your employees most value. Too often companies will immediately start making cuts to travel programs without really thinking about how it will affect employees over the long-term. It’s much better to think about the sense of balance when making any changes to corporate travel.