Communication is key to reducing spend

Simply communicating to employees that they must put more thought into why they’re traveling can lead to a reduction in trips.

It sounds too good to be true, but demand-management experts say simply communicating to employees that they must put more thought into why they’re traveling can lead to a reduction in trips.

To explain that phenomenon, here’s a quick lesson in consumer psychology as it applies to business travelers: Employees who feel they are respected and trusted will, overwhelmingly, do the best they can for the company. Creating that feeling of trust begins with communication—helping employees understand what the company is doing, and why.

Start by telling travelers and other key stakeholders the reasons your company wants to eliminate unnecessary travel or switch to electronically enabled meetings. Here are proof points you can use to explain your rationale:

  • Financial savings: 36% of companies that offer electronic alternatives to travel reduce spend, according to a 2012 survey of travel managers conducted by Kotler Marketing Group. The median savings was 10%. Nearly a third of respondents reported reducing spend by 20% or more. Use these numbers to show travelers the savings potential.
  • Environmental impact: Many companies have made public commitments to conducting their business in more environmentally responsible ways, and you can see those commitments reflected in carbon-reducing travel policies. Clearly communicate the connection between travel and environmental impact to your employees.
  • Work-life balance: Companies owe a duty of care to employees, and their work-life balance can be improved through less travel. More days at home reduce stress and enable employees to fulfill their commitments to family, as well as to the company. Use your own travel or HR data to demonstrate to employees how they could gain personal time by traveling less.

Once you’ve taken travelers through your rationale, encourage them to carefully consider their travel choices. Ask them to evaluate the return on investment of every trip with a few simple steps.

Travelers should:

1. Discuss every proposed trip with a superior. Two heads will take a more balanced view on whether a face-to-face meeting justifies the time and cost.

2. Describe, in writing, the purpose of a travel-related meeting. Who needs to participate (especially if more than one person from the company wants to attend)? Why can the meeting goal only be achieved in person?

3. Prepare a formal agenda. Any meeting benefits from a well-defined agenda, and preparing it before travel is booked helps gauge whether a face-to-face gathering is necessary. In addition, ask employees to agree to follow up on any action points before they go to the meeting; that will better ensure that time and money spent on travel won’t go to waste.

To go even deeper with your traveler management strategy, consider requiring travelers to present a business-based cost-benefit analysis. For example, allow purchasers to take a supplier negotiation trip only if they can demonstrate that the anticipated negotiated savings will exceed the estimated travel costs.

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