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3 Tips For Tweaking Your Business Travel Program

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Consider offering your employees more flexibility and comfort when they travel—but don’t be afraid to take a close look at their expense reports.

Business travel is a hard thing to get right, in part because it can come with high direct costs if not closely managed and high indirect costs if too tightly controlled. A policy that nickels-and-dimes every trip could turn off your valuable road warriors, while one that’s too loosey-goosey may turn business travel into a sunk cost rather than an important investment.

How to walk that fine line? Here are a few interesting business travel suggestions that you might want to look into.

Give your frequent travelers seat upgrades. This week, The Wall Street Journal made the radical suggestion that executives who travel infrequently should fly in economy class, while heavy business travelers—say, staff who travel a lot for event planning—should get upgraded to business class. The reasoning? It helps employee morale.

“In the long run, for many industries where talented labor is in high demand, easing travel friction can save money,” columnist Scott McCartney explains. Changes in the way travel-booking software such as TripActions or Egencia work make it easy to create specific rules for different categories of employees, he notes.

Boost flexibility. Do you have a lot of employees who “go rogue” when they book business travel? It might be because they’re not happy with the choices you give them—they may want to book an Airbnb instead of the Hilton. A recent analysis by the travel data firm Phocuswright says many employees are pushing for more flexibility.

“Millennials are said to be the ones demanding that their employers relax their previous stances—but at the heart of the issue is a company’s responsibility to provide complete duty-of-care for their traveling workers,” the company’s PhocusWire noted last month. “It seems unlikely that it is this group of travelers that are solely responsible—consumer behavior when traveling is altering across the age demographics.”

Scrutinize the details to rein in big spenders. If you’re having trouble sticking to your travel budget, consider whether the problem is somewhere other than lodging and airfare. Recent research from ViewFrom36k, a consultancy owned by Travel Leaders Group, finds that many organizations track only 60 to 70 percent of their business travel spending, and that knowledge gap could be costing them money.

By looking into granular expenses such as food and car rentals and analyzing when employees take their trips, you can make better decisions about how you’re investing in business travel. “Having that complete grasp gives you true insights into your company’s travel spend, trends, and traveler behavior,” a post on the ViewFrom36k blog explains. “You can then turn those insights into actionable information that empowers your company to see the big picture and make positive changes.”

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