Redefining the Travel Policy

A travel policy is one of the most important documents in corporate travel. As a travel manager you already know this. Your challenge is getting other employees to realize this too.

Given that a typical policy is anywhere between 10-20 pages long and often full of technical detail, it’s not surprising that most travelers will skim-read them: that is if they bother to look at all. Surely stuff like pre-trip planning, modes of transport, travel insurance statements, tax considerations, and expense reporting are your concern as a travel manager, right?

While most business travelers will trust that ‘everything is taken care of’, if for whatever reason they come up against a problem or issue, the first person they’ll call is their travel manager. While you’ll have done what you can to make sure their trip is booked and the essentials are sorted, there’s little you can do if, say, their credit card’s declined or their flight’s delayed. The unexpected can and will happen, but if travelers are looking for guidance on what to do, they just need to delve into the travel policy.

But who wants to play the passive-aggressive ‘told you so’ person? Of course you’re going to help — even if that means letting them know what they should already know, had they bothered to read the travel policy in the first place!

Most travelers are concerned about three things: their reason for travel, how they’ll get there, and what they’ll get reimbursed for. There are dozens of claimable expenses — such as flights, hotel stays, transportation costs, etc. And there are plenty of non-reimbursable expenses, including insurance for car rentals, alcohol purchases, and hotel room service. However, not all policies are built the same; and neither are employees. For example, a senior level sales manager will almost always receive more benefits than an entry level sales associate.

If this sounds unfair, what’s worse is having employees assume their company’s travel policies are all the same. An employee has every right to do leisurely activities, especially if they are in a touristy spot like New York, San Francisco, or Denver. Your company’s travel policy may not cover certain things like tours or tickets to a museum. This is particularly common when travelers tack on a few days of vacation time to business trips. While most companies won’t have an issue with employees taking an extra day or two to explore a touristy place, some won’t stand for employees additional purchases.

Confusion is common, but ultimately having a transparent travel policy makes everyone’s lives easier. However, transparency is no substitute for communication. In a world of dwindling attention spans (roughly eight seconds), people are looking for short and simple summaries of how to get what they need.

At this day and age, it’s all about simplification; Summarizing the key points of the document is the key to making a great travel policy. Giving travelers an abridged version of the company’s policy can help to reinforce the most important information. As a travel manager, you could even consider creating different versions of your company’s travel policy for different employee levels — which travelers can carry with them on their trips.

Practices like this aren’t rocket science, but for some businesses they can be real game changers for the way corporate travel’s handled.