It’s time to enforce your travel policy….Or get rid of it

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I am blessed to count this as my 32nd year in the travel management industry. And now I must confess a dirty little secret about what I know about company travel policies: VERY FEW COMPANIES ENFORCE THEM.

I speak around the country and one of my favorite jokes is my story about moving to a new town and trying to find a new church to attend. After attending church after church I finally found one that was pretty liberal. It was so liberal that instead of having the 10 commandments they had 4 commandments and 6 suggestions. That seems to be the same way many companies enforce their travel policy.

Not only do many companies not enforce their travel policy but most travelers have never seen or read the company travel policy. Some of the travel policies I have read are 30 pages long and would take 4 hours to read. Can we really blame a traveler for not reading the company travel policy if all they want to do is make a simple reservation from Omaha to Chicago, do their job and get home?

So the question becomes, Do companies need a travel policy? The answer is a resounding YES!

Travel today is expensive, complicated, frustrating and in some cases even dangerous. Employees need to know:

  • When to travel (Who approves travel)
  • How to make travel reservations (process)
  • What is appropriate and not appropriate (spending)
  • How they pay and/or get reimbursed for travel.
  • How to stay safe when traveling

One big thing that new or younger travelers need is some simple coaching on how to travel.

One giant reason that companies need a travel policy is every company is liable for the safety of their travelers while they are traveling for company business. If you don’t clearly communicate the Do’s and Don’ts you are opening yourself up to a big liability if something goes seriously wrong on a business trip and an employee is harmed.

Here are 8 things that Companies need to do to make a company travel policy actually enforced and followed (and maybe even read).

  1. Make travel easier for the traveler – Travel policy needs to be a roadmap for company employees to make it easier for them to travel. Sure you need to share the things they must do but also build enough flexibility into the policy that allows them to remove some of the pain of travel.
  2. Keep your travel policy short and sweet – No one reads anything today longer than 3 paragraphs (Ha! Look at how long this article is!). I think travel policy should be in a bullet format or visual format that is easy to search and find.
  3. Serve up the travel policy in small bites – Travelers don’t need to have your travel policy memorized. With technology today you can serve up policy along the way. When they are making hotel reservations have your reservation system pop up what are the preferred hotels. When flying to Pittsburgh share with them who your preferred airline is and how using them will save the company money and also provide them additional flyer benefits.
  4. Explain to the traveler, “What’s in it for me?” – Travel managers should focus on building strong perks for travelers that make travel easier for them, such as free upgrades, amenities, and other perks to make life on the road smoother.
  5. Move your travel policy to a visual format – Nobody reads 30 pages of policy. Convert your travel policy to a visual format using Prezi or other tools that allow for all the key policy issues to be on one page and the travelers can drill down to find out answers under each key heading such as airfare, hotels, car rental, etc. Make your policy visual, colorful, short, and easy to read.
  6. Make your travel policy contemporary with today’s traveler – I can’t believe how many policies don’t include info about Uber, Airbnb, and other sharing-economy travel options. By not addressing these issues you are leaving it up to the traveler to make good or bad decisions. Tell them they can or can not use these options. Be clear and concise.
  7. Enforce policy with centralized payment processes – The reason that many companies have such lousy compliance with company policy is they don’t implement systems that lock down payment for travel. Today you can have air, hotel, car and even Uber paid for using a centralized payment system. Simply don’t reimburse for expenses charged outside the company travel system and you will get 100% compliance in a matter of days.
  8. Turn your travel policy into short 30 – 45-second videos – Use videos that educate travelers about the “How to’s” of travel and you will be amazed at how easily they will jump on board the company travel-management train.

Maybe it is time for you to pull out your travel policy from the files and update them for the contemporary traveler of today. New technology allows you to communicate it in easy-to-digest ways that are relevant to today’s travelers.  Make it easy and fun and the compliance will fall into place.


This article can be found on The Company Dime.

About Steve Glenn

Steve Glenn founded Executive Travel 32 years ago and was a pioneer of online travel fulfillment, virtual agents and zero online fees. Steve Glenn serves as Chairman of the Board and CEO of Executive Travel.

In 2013 Inc. magazine ranked Executive Travel as the fastest growing Travel Management Company in its 32nd annual Inc. Magazine 500|5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. Executive Travel has been honored four times on the Inc. Magazine 500/5000 list.

Steve Glenn was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln College of Business Administration, and Business Owner of the Year by the Lincoln Independent Business Association.

Steve is Past President of the Nebraska N Club – representing all letter winners at the University of Nebraska– Lincoln. Steve was an offensive lineman at UNL under Coach Tom Osborne. Over his career Steve Glenn has served as President, officer or director on over 20 organizations around the State of Nebraska and the nation.

Steve Glenn earned a bachelor’s degree from the UNL College of Business Administration in 1979. Steve is a serial entrepreneur who has started over 40 companies. He and his family currently operate 9 companies ranging from real estate development, international importing, and retail.