Comply or else

THE issue of compliance when it comes to travel has long been a bone of contention between companies and travellers with “no one knows how difficult it is on the road” a common retort from travellers when faced with required explanations at the month end reconciliation talks. So what’s the answer and what are the best companies doing?

Did your company hire you as an adult or are the company travel rules so draconian as to be unworkable?

If the former is true, does your company need a travel policy? Consider Netflix’s travel policy encapsulated in one line, “act in Netflix’s best interest” backed up by their HR hiring policy, “hire, reward, and tolerate only fully formed adults”.

If the latter is true, was the policy put together by Ron in procurement, who has since left, with no traveller collaboration and only aimed at the 1% of rogues and Ron’s yearly bonus? You will always have the Scott Pruitts of the world, now under 11 federal investigations for spending $105,000 on first class travel instead of economy, but policies shouldn’t be built for them.

A lot of companies rely on technology advancements in the areas of savings and safety. Google is a good example with its use of Rocketrip to benchmark the most appropriate travel requirements for its travellers. In the area of safety, when used by travellers and crisis management, technology has the ability to find, communicate and extricate if required, all within common sense boundaries. Such automation can also help remove decision fatigue if the policy is aimed fairly and squarely at the intelligent traveller helping them make the right decisions with the right information.

Yet travel managers have always had a problem educating their travellers if the policy weighed more than a gram of paper. A GBTA survey indicated travel managers who say they communicate with and train travellers regularly, still only have a 20% recollection from travellers about the policy.

Certainly saving not sacrificing is a good road to walk but it should never include hitch-hiking rather than Uber, sleeping in parks when the weather is good, using bridges when the weather is inclement or bringing your own food when you travel — spam and beans top of the list as they require no heating. Extreme maybe but don’t kid yourself, this is still the lizard thinking of many companies today. Mandating is the last bastion of legacy thinking and has no place in today’s travel environment.

The best companies have figured out that more policies equal less passion from their travellers and that they need to let their staff mix travel with leisure, while not punishing overspending but rather rewarding savings. A policy should be about what is reasonable, it should be brief and it should make sense for the traveller so they act in the best interests of the company. If buy-in is required then what is good for management is good for everyone else, and if HR hires the right people policy becomes a moot point.

I’ll leave the last point to Mr Jobs, who knew a few things about getting the right people to do the right things, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”