By Dave Johnson
Travel in today’s corporate world is very different than it was just 20 years ago. Technology has made it so that certain reasons to travel – such as high-level corporate meetings – have disappeared. Yet there are still a variety of reasons why a company might need to send its employees somewhere, whether it’s to a satellite office, training, or an industry conference.
Corporate travel can be costly, and if you’re not smart about it you’ll sink a lot more money into it than what’s necessary. Here are some of the biggest corporate travel planning mistakes, most of which can cost you big:
1. Unnecessary travel. This is probably the number one cause of corporate waste. The fact is that today’s technologies create a situation where corporate travel should be relatively rare. There are a few situations in which travel is a must: when specific hands-on technical expertise is needed, legal situations, and event-based travel. Beyond that, much of our corporate travel simply doesn’t need to happen. Reliable, inexpensive video conferencing, VPN, and collaboration technologies have obsoleted many reasons for corporate travel. In many instances, we travel out of habit rather than necessity.
2. Absence of an effective corporate travel plan. The best way to control travel costs in your company is to have a corporate travel plan and follow it. Many companies have a travel plan and policy, but it’s not especially effective. For example, some plans haven’t been updated in years, yet contain specific examples of dollar limits or other expense amounts that are obsoleted. A good corporate travel plan outlines travel principles for the company, and then relies on an appendix, chart, or frequent update to keep up with changing market realities.
3. Lack of buy-in. If employees who travel frequently as well as your management team aren’t on board with your travel plan and with the idea of efficient corporate travel, you’re not going to get anywhere. As you create your corporate travel plan, work directly with those key stakeholders. Get their input and implement their suggestions whenever possible.
4. Automatically using a travel management company (or doing it in-house). Some companies will be better off working with a travel agency, while others will do much better if they keep travel management within the company. A company needs to do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether or not it makes sense to use an agency. For example, companies with frequent travelers that typically go between a handful of common destinations can greatly benefit from doing travel in-house, whereas companies with a wider geographic range might be better off with an agency.
5. Missing out on options. There are some travel options that just might not occur to a given company. For example, if a team of 30 people are traveling from the central office to a facility across the country, it might actually be less expensive to charter a private jet than what it would be to fly them all commercial. Explore every option (or at least make sure your travel management company is exploring every option).
6. Not providing your travelers with the right tools. Travelers need the right tools to do their jobs, and that includes travel. You need to find ways to make the approval and booking process easy and intuitive. An online tool can be especially helpful in this regard; it also makes the approval process much more formal and streamlined.
7. Not educating travelers. Your travelers need to know how to use those tools, as well. They also need to know about things like rental car insurance coverage and about corporate discounts on booking. Provide your people with updates as to travel policy charts and consider including a copy of the travel plan summary with each itinerary.
8. Not adjusting with the times. There are several ways in which your corporate travel policy needs to be examined. Not only are there the technical aspects and the opportunities for reduced travel mentioned above, there are a number of other factors such as rate changes, customer service experiences with your travel management company and more. Your travel policies should be reviewed quarterly, and they should be revised at least annually.
Corporate travel is a significant expense, yet it’s one that’s often simply accepted based on corporate culture and tradition. A solid evaluation of your company’s travel policies can help improve your bottom line and it can help create a much more efficient corporate environment.