Balancing Compliance and User Satisfaction with an Employee-Driven Travel and Expense Policy

How can we improve policy compliance, keep travelers safe, and give our users the best possible experience at the same time? If you’re a travel or finance manager, you’ve probably asked yourself that question more than once. You’ve studied your T&E data, and pinpointed where the issues are, but no matter how many communications you send out or policy mandates you publish, you’re still not making an impact on cost control or elevating your employees’ experience.

The missing link? Input from the people who have to follow that policy in your organization – your employees.

“In the past, policies were created based on meeting a financial outcome objective, without baking in the true sentiment of the employee and what they were experiencing when they were mobile on behalf of the business,” said Marchelle Klippenstein, Vice President, Value Experience Group, SAP Concur. “Now, we’ve established a tool that captures employee sentiment data so that information can be used to refine the policy in a way that balances employee needs with the financial needs of the company.”

Combining operational data with employee sentiment data enables travel managers and finance leaders to take a more comprehensive approach to T&E policy development, and gives them an efficient, accurate way to: 

 

Understand the reasons behind employee behaviors

For example, you may that know your corporate card adoption rate is low. To make a positive impact, you need to know the “why” behind that behavior. Are employees not using the card because:

  • They don’t have a card?
  • They don’t know how to get a card?
  • The card isn’t accepted at their preferred vendors?
  • Their personal card offers a better rewards/points program?
  • They don’t know where their card is?
  • They only thought they were supposed to use the card for dinners with clients?

If employees are misclassifying expenses, is it because:

  • They were in a hurry?
  • They don’t understand the process?
  • They don’t think it matters how they classify them?
  • Someone else did their expense report for them?
  • You don’t have an expense category that fits their purchase?

If they’re booking outside of the online booking tool is it because:

  • They don’t travel much, and forgot there was a booking tool?
  • They think they could get flights cheaper online?
  • It takes too much time?
  • They don’t remember how to use the booking tool?
  • They need a more streamlined way to book and manage travel?

Knowing the “why” is key to compliance.

“You can actually target the population of people who fall below the expected threshold or don’t follow a prescribed process and find out why, instead of making assumptions based on antidotal information,” Klippenstein said.

Knowing where the issues are and why they’re happening gives organizations the opportunity to refine their T&E policies to affect real, measurable change, while improving the employee experience.

 

Discover issues in your existing policy that deter compliance

Combining employee sentiment with operational data could unveil a disconnect between policy guidelines and doing business in the real world.

For example, your policy may limit tips to a specific amount. But, if your marketing team is getting help with heavy cartons containing trade show booths, or your sales team travels with bulky equipment for demos, your limits may be far below what’s appropriate in these situations.

Average meal costs in certain parts of the country, or the world, may be significantly higher than your approved per diem. Escalating rental car or ground transportation rates post-COVID may have rendered what used to be a reasonable allowance obsolete.

Armed with this insight, you can make adjustments, either upping the limits, or creating a new expense categories for tips involving trunks or luggage over a certain size or weight, or meals in specific cities or regions — and adjust your budget accordingly.

 

Get a clearer picture of your supplier partners’ performance

Perhaps you’ve negotiated an excellent rate with a car rental provider that you’ve partnered with for years. But, now, their inventory is depleted, so, travelers in certain parts of the country can’t get a vehicle unless they go to another, higher-priced provider. Or, maybe your preferred hotel has gotten lax with accommodations, or is undergoing renovations, making it unacceptable for business meetings. Or your airline of choice is consistently overbooking, and bumping your travelers making connecting flights.

All of a sudden, those low rates aren’t so valuable anymore.

While you have the big picture of supplier costs, your users can give you real insight into their performance in different parts of the country.

“You can also use employee feedback to gauge whether or not your hotel partners and other suppliers have practices that are in line with your company’s sustainability practices. Do they leave the lights on? Do they wash towels every day or offer an every-other-day option?” Klippenstein said. “Employee feedback can provide an aggregate perspective for the travel manager and procurement agent to determine if they want to continue to contract with that supplier going forward.”

 

Let your employees know that they are valued

By incorporating employee sentiment data into your T&E policy creation, you ensure your employees have a voice, and ownership, in the process. This approach lets employees know that you’re listening and responding to their needs, which can improve compliance as well as retention rates.

According to Achievers Workforce Institute’s Engagement and Retention Report, 64% of workers say they intend to resign from their jobs, citing the “lack of being heard” as their reason.

Ask for feedback, but make sure you communicate the action you took, or the policy or supplier changes you made, because of that feedback.

“Sentiment is the reason people make decisions, that’s core to us as humans,” Klippenstein said. “Companies that collect that sentiment data will benefit by acting on that data, and letting employees know that they’re bringing their feedback into program design.”

 

Reduce costs while improving the employee experience

It’s important to note that harmonizing employee sentiment data with operational intelligence data does more than benefit your employees. It has a measurable impact on cost savings and compliance.

By incorporating employee feedback into your program, you not only act in the best interest of your employees, but reach your business goals more quickly — reducing unnecessary spend, increasing compliance and setting up a framework for ongoing improvement and success.

Everybody wins.

We can help you integrate employee sentiment data into your spend management strategies to drive compliance, reduce costs and improve your employee experience with Concur Experience Optimizer. To find out more, visit us here.

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