As part of our Modern Finance series, we asked Controller Adam Rusch of Novum Structures to talk about key influences on his approach to modern T&E management. Novum Structures, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, builds architectural structures and enclosures, offering services from design development and project management to engineering and post-construction wrap-up. The company uses Concur Travel, Concur Expense, Concur Request, and TripIt Pro for its 120 employees.
It might sound easy to balance employees’ needs with the needs of the company when it comes to T&E and finance. You can digitize and automate, go mobile, set your employees up for success, and make sure the tools you provide them are easy to use.
But as with any process, it’s important to set yourself up for success, too, as the T&E manager for your organization. It’s smart to plan for what happens when the rubber hits the road, so I’ve rounded up four key lessons I’ve learned and tactics I’ve used for implementing and monitoring the health of our T&E program at Novum.
Become an expert yourself
Going mobile and automating can have significant impact on your bottom line, but you have to be comfortable with the tools and stay open-minded to the idea of apps.
You have to stay familiar with apps and other new technologies and use them regularly yourself so you can help your employees do the same.
Change, even when positive, has its pain points, and you’ll want to have a keen understanding of those challenges and a comprehensive plan for managing them.
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 at Novum 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.
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.
Ask for feedback
We ask our employees for feedback constantly, encouraging them to send us their thoughts as they’re using the system. We make it very easy for them to tell us what they think; they can send us a mass email, pick up the phone, or talk to us in the hallway. We encourage employees to be forthright; once we understand the issues they’re facing, we’re best able to make meaningful changes and improvements. The biggest issue is typically just needing to better educate people on how to use the system, and that’s a quick solution.
It always comes down to “Tell us how we can make it better for you, so we can make it better for you.” And that resonates. Our employees know we want them to have a good experience. They trust that we’ll try to make it better for them.
What it looks like in practice
At Novum, we announced a system change and set a somewhat aggressive timeline—we implemented Concur in two months, tested the system with a small group for four months, and then rolled it out to the whole company. While we were doing that, we also rewrote our policies for corporate credit cards and travel and expense. While we were implementing these changes, I made sure to communicate the status to our employees – that we were seeing good results. Those ongoing status reports helped everyone get past the inevitable pain that change can bring.
At the end of the day, if we hadn’t stuck to our timeline, our results wouldn’t have been as impactful. We gave our staff leeway for the transition, and we acknowledged their fear and uncertainty about using a new program, but we stuck to our guns on the implementation schedule. It’s all part of balancing the needs of the business with the needs of your employees. Make sure you're taking both needs into consideration, and you’re on the road to success.
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