Managing change when introducing a travel policy

Get staff onboard with your travel policy

If your staff have had free rein when it comes to booking their business travel, then getting them to comply with a travel policy is not going to be an easy process. But there are things you can do to make it smoother for everyone.

We spoke with Flight Centre Business Travel Account Manager, Kimberly Hamilton, for her insights into how to get your employees on board with a new travel policy.

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Do you even need a travel policy?

The short answer is: YES!

From the type and cost of a hotel to which airline and class of seat you get to travel in, business travellers have a lot of options. When left up to each traveller, costs can spiral, questionable priorities come into play and the processes to book, approve and reconcile travel can be slow.

“While managing travel spending is the primary reason companies talk to us about implementing a formal travel policy, it is not the only one. More than ever the safety and security of staff is a consideration for businesses. Booking specific hotels or using preferred airlines and car hire companies ensures businesses can align themselves with trusted brands and better manage staff movements to mitigate risk,” says Kimberly.

Travel manager meeting with client over coffee outside

Why you need to manage the change

When habits and processes are ingrained, it can be tough to get your staff to change their ways. If a traveller has been booking business class flights and they're not entitled to it under the new travel policy, it may not go down well. This is where change management comes in.

But why is change management so important when introducing a travel policy? One word: compliance.

"Having clear and specific policies and processes ensures businesses take full advantage of the great deals we can negotiate for them, but this can fall flat without compliance. It's important to communicate the benefits that a travel policy can bring beyond cost savings to the company or to employee safety. The perks that an individual traveller can benefit from, such as upgrades through corporate plans or priority access that can save them time, will see greater compliance. This is where a dedicated Travel Manager can add value, by working with your company to identify what’s most important to you,” says Kimberly.

Client meeting with travel manager

How to introduce a travel policy

So, how can you make the transition as smooth as possible? Here are our tips:

Know what you want to achieve with a travel policy. Do you want to save money? Make bookings more consistent? Improve traveller safety? Increase consistency of reporting? Whatever is driving the change, keep that front of mind and be open about it. If your staff know why these things are happening, they’ll be more likely to accept them.

Engage your staff throughout the process. If you want your travellers to comply, get them involved in setting the policy. What do they look for in a hotel? Do they prefer a type of car? Which airline loyalty program is of the most benefit to most people? Asking those who will be directly impacted by these decisions will help them accept the policy.

Make the policy simple to access and understand. There’s a couple of great ways to do this, says Kimberly:

"A great example that we have used for some clients is to implement a pre-filled travel request form that includes parts of the policy outlined to ensure staff are reminded of it every time they submit a request to the Travel Manager. We can also provide infographics that take key parts of the policy and puts them into a quick-reference guide for staff to refer to when booking and travelling. Ultimately it is what works for each individual business.”

Team leader smiling

Lead the change from the top

You’ve got the policy in place. Now the real challenge begins.

“Ultimately change will need to come from the leaders within the company. How strict do you want to be? Do you want to enforce penalties for non-compliance or implement rewards that encourage staff to adhere to the policy? Changing staff behaviour is always difficult but seeing a CEO adhering to the policy will always yield better results,” says Kimberly.

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