The Great Resignation and Its Impact on Spend Management

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, no one could have predicted how much it would change how we live, how we work, and how businesses are run. While virtual meetings and hybrid work environments have become the norm, the impact of the pandemic has extended well beyond office locale. It has ushered in the era of The Great Resignation, with record numbers of U.S. workers quitting their jobs in 2021. Whether they left to take advantage of other opportunities, to hit the reset button on their career, or to figure out their personal “next chapter,” this much is clear: today, employee expectations extend far beyond collecting a paycheck.

To retain critical talent, organizations have to find a way to amplify the employee voice and understand their needs across the operation — including the area of travel and expense management, a very employee-driven, emotional business process.

“In this new post-pandemic environment, companies simply cannot design an employee mobility strategy in the same way or have the same legacy T&E expectations anymore. It has to be about more than spend control,” explained Marchelle Klippenstein, Vice President, Value Experience Group, SAP Concur. “There has to be a greater emphasis on serving the employee base and their experience; to mobilize your field in a way that gets them the most productivity, while still taking care of the financial needs of the business. There has to be a balance. “

So, how can organizations move from where they are to a more employee-centric model to drive retention, while still operating profitably?

 

1. Broaden your scope of employee engagement.

If you’re like most organizations, your human resources department may periodically send out employee satisfaction surveys that ask if employees feel valued, are motivated by their managers, or if they have the tools they need to do their jobs. While all of those are good questions, employee engagement has to extend beyond the walls of HR.

Organizations have to find a way to make employee engagement part of their spend management strategies  — asking about travel policies, supplier performance, card programs, and reimbursement processes, then blending that feedback with their operational data to ensure they’re serving the needs of the business as well as the needs of the people who keep it running.

 

2. Monitor employee sentiment data as readily as you monitor KPIs.

You and your department heads probably have dashboards that monitor spend data and budgets on a weekly, if not daily, basis. That same kind of visibility, with the capability to drill down into material thresholds, is critical to fully utilizing your sentiment data to identify where action is needed, and to measure how a change in policy, process or additional training impacts the outcome.

“For example, if you survey your employees on whether or not they are aware of your T&E policy, you can actually correlate the number of employees who answered ‘no’ with the portion of spend that is tied back to that population,” Klippenstein said. “If it’s a high percentage, then you’d be justified spending money on retraining them, and use the dashboard to estimate, and then monitor the results in terms of reduced non-compliant spend.” 

 

3. Recognize that Travel and Expense is an emotional business process — and treat it accordingly to aid retention.

Your Travel and Expense  policy impacts employee productivity, safety, and well-being. It’s an emotional business process that has to incorporate employee needs. It can no longer be approached in the same tactical way as buying supplies or contracting with a telecom provider. Your policy has to align with the individual needs of your users, and give them a degree of choice and control.

“The last thing you want is a T&E program that’s the final straw that breaks the camel’s back and causes an employee to leave,” Klippenstein said. “ Yes, the business still has to run, and decisions have to be made at top levels. But, when it’s an emotional process, like T&E,  and it’s at every level of the company, it matters what your employees think.”

Incorporating their input into your policy makes all the difference.  

 

4. Let your employees know that you’re making a change.

“It’s an opportune time to go to your employee base and say, “Hey, we know it’s different now. We know that there are opportunities. We know that  there are expectations for a different work-life balance, and there are expectations that we figure out a way to get back in the saddle and grow as a company’,” Klippenstein said. “Let them know that part of serving them as an employee, and retaining them as valued members of the organization, is to really understand how they feel.”

Talk about how you’ll be collecting sentiment data. More importantly, let them know how you’ll be using this information, and how that will benefit them.

“I think it’s important to communicate that you’re actually baking their feedback into program design and configuration changes; that you’re going to put a plan in place to make improvements based on your findings and their input,” Klippenstein said.

 

5. Embrace the fact that things will never be the same.

From how we interact with other people to the way business engage with their employees, one thing is certain: things will never be the same.

The way expense management has traditionally been served is very finance centric, very policy driven, and I would challenge organization leaders to flip that on their head, and bring other stakeholders into the design of a business process that has such a human element to it,” Klippenstein said. “It became so clear with COVID that protecting your people and their health and safety is, and should be, the top priority, and you can’t forget that.”

That’s the New Normal  for 2022 and beyond. It’s the age of the employee. Companies that pivot toward the people who make their organization run are the ones that will succeed in the years to come.            

For more information on how to integrate employee sentiment data into your spend management strategies, check out Concur Experience Optimizer.

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