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Is corporate travel approval a thing of the past?

Is corporate travel approval a thing of the past?

If you want to control corporate travel costs within your organisation, you probably already use a corporate travel approval process to prevent employees from booking trips that aren’t authorised, or you’ve at least thought about implementing one. But is it more hassle than it’s worth? Corporate travel approval processes can often be time consuming and viewed as a complete waste of time by some employees, who often become further annoyed that their employer doesn’t trust them to make the right choices. So how do you protect your company’s bottom line and keep your employees happy at the same time?

#1 - Remember you have a corporate travel policy

A corporate travel policy is there to make sure employees book their business travel in accordance with your company’s business travel guidelines. If an employee must seek approval for a trip that is already compliant with policy, isn’t this just duplication of the same thing? If the booking is already compliant, why should the employee then ask for permission to book it? In a situation like this, we suggest that all policy compliant bookings are automatically approved, and therefore, shouldn’t need to go through another approval process. The exception to the rule is when the traveller needs to book a trip that doesn’t comply, this is where we think the approval process is a necessary control mechanism. Our advice is to let the travel policy look after the compliant bookings and only seek approval when an out of policy booking is required.

Of course, for this to work you need to make sure your travel policy rules are rock solid. Make sure your corporate travel agent is enforcing this on your behalf for all booking methods, so regardless of how your traveller makes their booking, they can’t get past the policy rules without receiving authorisation first.

If you don’t have the confidence to let your business travel policy take care of compliant bookings, it’s probably time to review the guidelines. We have a handy guide to help you do this, which you can check out here.

#2 - You don’t need a physically signed form or a fax machine anymore

This may not apply to your business, however; there are still lots of companies relying on hand-filled forms, signatures and fax machines to provide authorisation to their corporate travel agents so they can make a business travel booking. This relies on way too many people to carry out a manual task, takes far too much time and by the time everyone has done what they need to do, the price of the trip could have increased or worse still the flight, train ticket or hotel is no longer available.

If this sounds familiar, speak to your corporate travel agent about how you can automate this process. Most good corporate travel companies can implement automated approval processes that follow a hierarchy to make sure the trip gets approved quickly. So if approver A is on holiday, the approval request will automatically go to approver B and so on. Replacing a manual approval process with an automated one, will ensure only approved trips are booked, but also remove some of the tension old fashioned approval processes can cause.

#3 - Don’t assume your employees are all out to waste money

Approval processes and corporate travel policies are proven ways to control corporate travel costs, but it’s important to remember the human element of the process. When you look at business travel on paper, it appears logical to control and enforce your guidelines no matter what, but it’s important to remember that business travel involves people. Business travel impacts on your employee's’ lives and it doesn’t take much to leave a negative or positive impression when emotions are involved. This is why we recommend showing your employees you trust them to make the right choices, of course, there have to be guidelines, but consider creating maximum or worst case scenarios so providing these are not exceeded, your employees have some freedom to choose which travel option is best for them.

You’ll probably find that given the choice many of your employees will still opt to save company money, and when they do you should reward them for it, so they know their efforts are appreciated.

#4 - There are other ways to monitor health and safety of your employees

Approval processes aren’t always about cost; some businesses like to individually approve all trips, so they know where their employees are going to manage risk, and rightly so. However, there are other less time intensive ways of recording this information. Speak to your corporate travel company about how you can be alerted by email when someone books a trip to a high-risk destination or how you can view a real-time dashboard of all current and upcoming trips. You could be emailed a report each day with any new bookings, so you know exactly what has been booked without your employees taking valuable time out of their day to let you know where they’re heading. Your corporate travel agent will be able to advise you on how technology can be leveraged to save time within your business and also improve the processes you currently have in place.

Hopefully, these tips will give you some ideas of how you can control business travel costs and risks without being too much of a pain for your employees. The reasons for approving business travel are clearly valid, but with technology improving all the time, there are often new and better ways to reach the same goal.

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About Kevin Harrison

Kevin is our managing director and business travel veteran! Kevin has worked within the industry for over 30 years and spent 20 of those at one of the UK’s largest travel management companies. Kevin leads a dedicated and passionate team who strive to make a difference to our customers’ businesses by improving their approach to corporate travel.
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