Security is the right home for Cardinal Health travel program

Jill Huffman wanted to move Cardinal Health’s travel program from prioritizing savings to focusing on the traveler experience and safety. To accomplish that, she and her travel program made an actual move—from procurement to security.

Jill Huffman, Cardinal Health

The idea for this bold shift evolved over time, as Huffman and her security colleagues saw how much their duty of care priorities aligned. In the fall of 2016, she and security team leaders began talking about having travel report into security. By the end of the year, it had happened.

“Today, we run a travel program that balances travel spend containment with on-the-road experience and safety,” said Huffman, global travel manager for the health care products and services company based in Dublin, Ohio. “We think not only about the cost of travel, but also about the cost of finding and hiring new employees. Our employees are more satisfied with their business travel experiences, which helps with retention. And retention creates savings.”

‘Boots on the ground’ resources

Having the travel program report into security puts employee safety and well-being top of mind, and it also adds resources. For starters, Huffman was able to double the size of her travel team from two people to four (she’s included in the count) because of organizational growth and the change in focus from cost control to strategic execution.

Huffman also has gained what she calls “boots on the ground” help from a global network of security and administrative colleagues. A prime example: When the travel team was considering adding additional preferred hotels in the Philippines, a security team member in Manila visited some of the prospective properties to assess quality and safety. That sort of collaboration happens all over the world, and Huffman recognizes colleagues’ efforts through “Bravo Awards,” one of Cardinal Health’s employee-recognition programs.

An even more important benefit has come through having travel and security feed into and analyze the same data streams. This data-syncing started before Cardinal Health’s travel program made the move to security. The 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris—during which travel was aware of some employees’ locations while security was not—revealed the need for better information sharing. Placing travel under the security department knocked down all remaining silos.

Better data

Now both travel and security tap into BCD Travel’s DecisionSource® reporting and analytics platform to know when travelers are going to high-risk destinations and to locate them when a potential crisis emerges. They use DecisionSource to make sure several employees are not scheduled on the same flight and to ensure Cardinal Health’s third-party security provider has the most up-to-date traveler information. When a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit Mexico on Sept. 19 and Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico a day later, Cardinal Health used both real-time data and information from the company’s Security Operations and Intelligence Center to quickly identify all affected travelers.

“Data is the key to everything we do, and we use DecisionSource for everything,” said Huffman, who also turns to the platform for more traditional travel metrics like tracking air volume with preferred carriers, reporting total travel spend and monitoring travelers’ policy compliance.

Happier travelers

Monitoring and influencing traveler behavior has gotten easier since the program moved to security and shifted to a more traveler-centric approach. “Travelers are less critical of the program, and they tend to come to us with ideas,” Huffman said. “Road warriors from sales are willing to offer their feedback and expertise. They help us understand the markets and share tips that are valuable to other travelers.”

A global travel security e-learning course developed earlier this year guides travelers through everything from what to pack for high-risk areas to how to react and protect themselves when they don’t feel safe. The course, which is not mandatory, has already been taken by a third of Cardinal Health’s U.S. travelers.

Advice for other travel managers

Cardinal Health’s travel program move to security happened less than a year ago, so Huffman lacks the apples-to-apples data she craves to measure success. But “anecdotal and experiential” evidence indicates the change has been good for travelers and furthered company goals, such as improving duty of care and reducing the friction and frustrations travelers experience on the road.

Huffman advises other travel managers who seek closer ties to their corporate security departments to do their homework: “Understand what security does and who’s involved. Find ways to align with security under your existing structure.”

Then if a travel-security combination seems like a good fit, get leadership buy-in and find champions. In Huffman’s case, the champions were a chief security officer and a security director who immediately understood the employee-focused benefits of adding travel to the mix.

“Our travel program still considers savings, but we’ve changed our perspective and look for a balance between savings and employee safety and satisfaction,” Huffman said. “We look at employees as assets and work hard to make their trips safe and comfortable.”