With our Modern Finance series this year, we’ve asked some of the top finance professionals in the country to share their perspective on the challenges and facing today’s financial decision-makers with regard to implementing new travel and expense policy. Here are 5 key T&E policy tips from Concur's Modern Finance series.
Staff Accountant Alexander Burks of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Listen and learn
We’re a collaborative organization, and it’s important to us that everyone’s voice is heard. So we reviewed our new T&E policy with people across the entire organization to make sure that they agreed it was fair, transparent, and cost-effective—and that it met the needs of both staff and management. That’s of particular concern here at HRC, since our work is all about equality. So we made it a collaborative process, coming up with a good draft over about a month, and then spending another five months bringing in different parts of the organization to review it with us. We interviewed dozens of staffers and went through several iterations to make sure we got it right.
That staff participation went a long way toward ensuring compliance.
Another key to success is training people on our policy when we onboard them and ongoing coaching, particularly when we see non-compliance. We review 100 percent of all credit-card transactions, for example, so whenever there’s a violation, I make sure to find out why it happened and do whatever coaching is necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen again. As a result, most people understand the policy and, by and large, abide by it. I’m happy to say that we’re seeing widespread adoption and compliance.
Controller Adam Rusch of Novum Structures
Communicate about upcoming changes
It’s important to make sure people are aware of the policies in place with regard to new systems and processes, and that they stick to them from the start. Keep in mind that longer-standing employees may be resistant to change so it’s key to be transparent and mindful with your communication strategy. Let employees know why the change is necessary, how it will benefit their work lives, and how it will help the company in turn. Clear and proactive communication is a lot more beneficial to the company than being reactive when problems arise or once bad habits are formed.
Make training a key component
Use your experience with the solutions to design the training you make available for your employees. Consider varying types of trainings depending on the number of people impacted by the change: webinars, brown bag lunches, Q&A panels, etc. We’ve started giving mass trainings every quarter that update employees on changes to our tools and ensure they understand the value of the app while we’re at it.
Another format that has worked for us has been to separate employees by department, as each department will likely be submitting similar expense reports and similar types of expenses. This type of training can then be tailored and specific to those departments and they will find more value in it. Then, general training sessions each quarter or every 6 months across a few time slots provide the flexibility needed for employees in regards to more broad, general topics and discussions around improvements.
ALPS Chief Financial Officer Sara Smith
Create a culture of shared responsibility
When it comes to managing costs, we tend to be very transparent. We circulate the costs of things so that people have a good understanding of their impact on the organization. We also let them know that business travel is an investment for everyone, so let’s make sure we all get something out of it. As a result, most of them make good decisions.
This strategy works. Ninety-nine percent of ALPS employees follow company travel guidelines—and some have taken to developing creative solutions to their travel. One employee was going to be visiting a customer for a few weeks in a temperate climate, so instead of renting a car, she bought a bicycle and used it to commute to the customer site. It’s great for her—she’s happy, we save money, and when it’s all over, she gets to keep the bike! That’s the kind of win-win we like to see.
IDC Vice President Christopher Chute
Be mindful of millennials
Think about how millennials have grown up in a world of smartphones, tablets, and mobile apps. Asking these younger staffers to use a paper-based system for any business process is anathema. Fortunately, CFOs looking for ways to reduce revenue-generating employee turnover can easily add travel and expense management (TEM) software solutions that fit with the mobile workstyles of today's employees:
- At the very least, today's modern organization should have an automated TEM process in place, using specific TEM desktop applications. The value of basic automation is the ability to insert customized accounting codes into the TEM application template (facilitating accounting accruals) and a basic desktop-based user experience.
- While basic TEM software provides basic value, it lacks the streamlining efficiency associated with a set of purpose - built cloud and mobile TEM apps. These apps are easy to access from any device, and typically can capture data from paper receipts, automatically populate reports, and provide managers with the ability to approve expenses from mobile dashboards. Furthermore, working with a TEM partner that has developed an ecosystem of third party apps increases an organization's ability to recognize its overall spending patterns in real-time. For instance, automated VAT reclamation accrual allows for the elimination of a separate process running in-parallel to TEM reconciliation.
- Because of this mobile-first value, utilizing a set of cloud and mobile-based TEM apps is quickly becoming table stakes. According to IDC's most recent survey of fast-moving midmarket firms, those led by millennials are much more likely to have already adopted cloud-based travel management and expense solutions than their peers (60% and 20% more, respectively.) IDC also sees these firms as being first-movers in adopting predictive TEM software that, when part of an ecosystem, can automatically report TEM savings insights that help leaders see clearly what’s happening in the business.
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