Corporate travel managers have historically focused on controlling air and hotel spend with less emphasis on ground transportation. This makes sense when ground transportation typical represents less than 10% of your company’s travel and entertainment budget. However, with the global business travel spending in 2019 exceeding $1.4T USD*, ground transportation is increasingly a key area for companies to rethink their strategy. As COVID-19 has brought nearly all travel to a standstill, now is a particularly good time to reevaluate your existing travel policies.
In addition to their responsibilities to provide duty-of-care to their travelers and manage costs for the company, travel managers today are being pressured to address a wide array of emerging trends in travel. To better understand how this situation is challenging many organizations, it is important to first understand the underlying functions of a company’s travel policy.
Create a corporate travel policy with a robust ground transportation program
While many enterprise organizations realize the importance of a corporate travel policy, many small and medium size businesses may not be capitalizing on the benefits of a well-defined travel policy. A typical travel policy will cover items such as what vendors employees should use, how they should book travel, what costs are covered on a company card, and how reimbursement works. Instituting even a basic policy can help your business accomplish two things. First, it defines and maintains your travel budget. By establishing what is and what is not an acceptable travel expense, you ensure fiscal responsibility on the part of your employees. Secondly, a corporate travel policy can help protect your employees by ensuring they utilize safe choices in lodging and modes of travel, as well as enabling companies to locate travelers in the event of an incident..
To optimize the ground transportation section of a company’s travel policy, a travel manager’s first step is to review current spend on ground transportation. This type of snapshot can be difficult to obtain because expense report entries may not follow a structured format. If naming conventions are not clean, it can be very difficult to identify expenses by category. Understanding current expenditure is critical in order to see the broader themes of your company’s behavior and as a result, what opportunities are available.
As ground transportation options have proliferated over the past 10 years, there are more and more opportunities for businesses to encourage their employees to travel in ways that suit their preferences while still fulfilling their duty-of-care obligations. One of the best ways travel managers can ensure compliance is to create policies which are accessible, clear, and up-to-date. Furthermore, providing advantages and disadvantages around the approved ground transportation options means employees are better prepared to choose an option that best suits their needs.
Design a travel policy that reflects your company’s culture
While cost and safety are the main driving factors for instituting a travel policy, it is important that the policy messaging and direction reflect the culture within your organization. If your travel policy mirrors the overall tone of your corporate culture, it will be much easier for your employees to follow. Travelers will be receiving the same look, feel and guidance from your travel policy as they do with other company policies.
For example, if your company has rigid employee conduct policies, the travel policy may be stricter and require written approval for each trip. Conversely, if the culture focuses on employee contribution for its success, travelers may be empowered to decide what is best when making travel choices. Most companies fall somewhere between these two extremes by allowing personal choice within reason and adding a pre-approval layer for management sign off.
Many successful policies are also written with the guidance of not only upper management but travelers themselves. Talk to your travelers to see what they actually care about when traveling. The goal is to learn about their collective preferences to guide future decisions about preferred channels and policy improvements.
Begin preparing for the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) era
As it becomes clear that a massive shift in urban transport is under way, there are some proactive steps which companies can take now to stay ahead of the curve. The key idea of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is to offer travelers mobility solutions based on their travel needs. Instead of the current fragmented model where each trip is individually created and paid for, the goal is to provide a service that combines transportation services from public and private transportation providers through a unified interface that creates and manages the entire journey.
It is vital that travel managers talk to ground transportations companies to understand what platforms they partner with or are considering participating in. This can help ensure you are aware of new programs as they develop. As the landscape shifts to a more integrated mode of transport, businesses have the opportunity to design travel policies that encourage a broad use of ride-hailing, use of chauffeured car services, and a variety of transport options that fit the traveler’s preferences and the company’s needs, while also ensuring traveler safety.
If you’d like more information or have questions about your policies, please reach out to your CoreTrust representative or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*GBTA BTI™ Outlook Annual Global Report & Forecast: Prospects for Global Business Travel 2019-23