Early on in my career, I once heard an HR person say, “You know our employees don’t steal.” Okay…. I also heard another HR rep say, “Our people want to do the right thing. They just have to be taught ‘the how to.’ ” I would like to say HR rep number two had a better grip on reality.
People do steal, but most employees want to do the right thing. So as travel managers or policy makers, what can you do to help prevent fraud in your company? Writing and communicating your company’s corporate expense policy is your best bet.
When writing your policy, there are two basic rules for assisting employees to meet policy compliance:
1. Make your policy realistic.
- For example: You might have a volume commitment with a carrier with the connecting flight. But consider or allow non-stops on non-contracted carriers as an alternative when the connection just doesn’t make sense and the price differential is minimal. That’s what’s meant by most logical fare. And for your business travelers, the policy makes sense to both the company and for their travel.
2. Write very clear and concise guidelines.
- Give your travelers the information they need to make the right decision. Tell people what the company considers an allowable expense as well as what’s not allowable. Listing out examples and situations for your employees provides an easy reference that also clears up any misunderstandings before they happen.
As a bonus, let employees know why the company has made certain decisions around expenses, and let them know what the benefits are to the company by following that policy. And never forget: report back the “wins” to your employees. People love to know that their efforts do make a difference, and where and how their efforts paid off for the company.
So who is best to write that travel and expense policy? Should it be the responsibility of HR, Finance or Travel? Well the answer is all three and more. The best policies are those that are written by a cross-functional team that all have a stake in the outcome. My personal recommendation is to make sure you have at least one road warrior in the mix. They have tremendous insight as to what is realistic and what is manageable. And that policy should be reviewed and updated at least every two years.
Fraud is preventable. Helping people do the right thing through writing and communicating your company’s policies and guidelines will go a long way for your company and your own peace of mind.