7 steps to create your post-COVID travel policy
It’s becoming more and more clear that the post-COVID travel environment will be very different from how we thought about, managed, and experience travel in 2019. For many organisations, there will be a stronger and renewed focus on controlling costs. Most, if not all companies, will need to manage employee safety in a more proactive way. Organisations will strive for more employee engagement and empowerment, and there will be a push for more transparency throughout. In some cases, in light of this new paradigm, you may be developing a travel policy for the first time. For others, your company’s travel policy will need to adapt to the new normal. Here are 7 steps that will help you create a post-COVID modern travel policy that works for you.
STEP 1: Define what you’re trying to achieve
Different travel policies have different missions. Defining your most important objectives in light of how Covid-19 has affected your business is critical to drafting a good policy that fits your organisation’s values. Some things to consider include:
- Are you now primarily concerned about reducing spending?
- Are you promoting a culture of empowerment in your organisation?
- Are you concerned about how your travel policy will enable top-line growth?
- Have environmental concerns become a more pressing issue?
Answering these questions will provide the framework on which you can build your policy. Have a look at our piece on the 4 archetypes of travel policies for a deep-dive into this.
STEP 2: Understand best practices
Next, become familiar with travel policy/management best practices. As travel restarts, controlling spend and implementing automated policies and automated approval processes will give you the best chance of success. Travel approval workflows should be carefully designed to include factors such as the reason for travel, days advance booking, geographic risk, budget, and more. Encourage travellers to make all their bookings in one place. This could be via a single agency, but we recommend using a fit-for-purpose automated travel booking platform. This will give your teams ownership over their travel but still provide the cost controls and safety measures you require. If you go for a tool, choose one that works for you and works for them. They need to love using it or they won’t and it needs to simplify your work or you won’t value it either.
STEP 3: Involve key stakeholders
Don’t go at this alone. It’s essential now more than ever to get advance input from key stakeholders (e.g., CEO, CFO, HR, travellers). This will ensure both a broad range of views are incorporated and you get buy-in from the outset. Relevant stakeholders will vary by organisation — be sure to map out what this looks like for you. Also, be clear whose input is a must-have, whose will be helpful, and who must simply “sign-off”. This will determine how frequently and deeply involved each person should be. Importantly, seek input before, during, and after the drafting process.
STEP 4: Carefully select the travel philosophy that fits your needs
Before you start putting pen to paper, spend a bit of time thinking about how you want to run your travel program. There are two critical dimensions to consider:
Dimension 1 — Managed or Unmanaged
Do you want everything run via a travel agency (traditional or “new-age” tech-based) or do you prefer everything to be handled primarily within your organisation (e.g., via office managers, everyone booking their own way)?
Dimension 2 — Centralised or Decentralised
Does your organisation need a centralised or de-centralised model? Centralised models require all travel requests to run through a single channel/person (e.g. an office manager centralises all the bookings). A decentralised model empowers travellers to make and manage their own bookings.
A managed, decentralised structure is likely a best-fit to address COVID-related travel concerns, but this may not be ideal for you. Deciding how you fit along each dimension will bring clarity to the structure and content of your new policy.
STEP 5: Start drafting
Now that you’ve involved relevant stakeholders, got a feel for what a good travel policy looks like, and know which travel philosophy works best, it’s time to start drafting. When writing, remember to not only discuss company travel rules but also to include critical information your teams need (e.g., safety, expensing). Although the travel policy document is for the whole company, it won’t serve its purpose unless employees themselves refer to and abide by the policy; it has to feel like it enables them. Key sections to include are:
- A brief introduction
- How to book travel and the approved travel booking tool (if any)
- Specific details for flights, rail, hotels, and ground transportation (you may want to include a list of daily maximum allowable hotel rates here)
- Expense policy and procedures
- Company travel insurance details and how to make claims
- Emergency procedures
A reminder to get stakeholder feedback along the way, especially from frequent travellers, to ensure the document is on-point and clear. If you would like to work with a Fairjungle travel policy template, please feel free to download it here.
STEP 6: Communicate your policy
Good communication of your newly-designed policy is the most important step to ensure high levels of compliance, which in turn will help achieve your post-COVID objectives. Err on the side of over-communication. Three key moments where you should step in and discuss the travel policy are: (1) when it’s first published or after major revisions; (2) when new joiners are onboarded; and (3) during major shifts in company strategy/after important milestones (e.g., increases in ESG investment, new funding round). With new and heightened safety requirements, ensure the travel policy, especially key safety information, is easily accessible by those who are on the road (e.g., on the company intranet, on a shared drive, automatically bookmarked on browsers).
STEP 7: Monitor and adapt
For ongoing success, you need to monitor travel performance and revisit your travel policy on a regular basis to ensure it’s helping you achieve your objectives. You should set and track travel targets that will be most meaningful to your organisation in a world dominated by COVID-related concerns, for example: overall spend, number of out-of-policy trips, number of advance days for bookings, travel-related carbon emissions (see our free of charge Carbon Footprint Calculator). See what’s working and what needs improvement and update your travel policy and workflows accordingly; an efficient travel policy needs to grow and adapt with your business. Most importantly, don’t forget to put in place a simple, effective way for employees to provide feedback!
As our final tip to help you set a base to an optimal travel policy, we've developed a Travel Policy Template, free of charge. Make sure to check it out !
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