Posted February 15, 2012

A Travel Policy's Biggest Barrier

What is the biggest issue that stands between a policy and its successful delivery? Is it a lack of knowledge or ability in order to create one? Is it uncooperative or unable suppliers or intermediaries? Is it poor uptake or availability of appropriate technology systems? Or is it simply that end users either cannot or will not comply with edicts and have ways of getting around them?

Depending on your own experiences you could say one, some or all of the above but I think you might be missing something even more important. What is this something? It is what I call the three "P's" of internal Politics, Procedures and Processes and these have nothing to do with suppliers, intermediaries or individual travellers.

I have seen so many companies invest huge resources and money to create detailed and potentially rewarding travel programmes only to waste much benefit due to the three "P's." Many of them choose not to identify this as the cause as it would not be considered "Politically" correct to do so especially as the issues usually start at board level. A shame really as board level is where any rectifying needs to start.

So what am I actually saying? I believe that internal politics, inflexible procedures and lack of communication processes are the biggest road blocks when it comes to the delivery of a negotiated and delivered travel programme. I am also saying that non compliant travellers are not the biggest villains, it is more likely the messages they are receiving (or in some cases not) from much higher up the business chain of command.

Taking a closer look at any company's board you can see why problems could occur. Rather like a herd of elephants you have the strong patriarch and around him a chain of command with different interests and abilities. Again, like any herd there is a fair amount of head butting and scheming going on. They all represent different interests from finance to sales, operations to procurement and some hold more sway than others.

Eventually these "band of brothers" agree a policy. But do they really? You can be certain that there will be winners and losers but when it comes to something as emotive as travel they seem less inclined to feed their solidarity down the line. In some areas there can be a visible lack of zeal and that is all it takes to undermine a policy. Particularly when there are so many practical ways of getting around it.

Many companies end up with a policy that has been presented by procurement who are by no means top dog (or elephant!) at the board table, which is not satisfactory to all and then they have to communicate it to a sometimes incredulous work force. This is where we come to the second closely linked "P" of procedures. Who is allowed to say what to whom and what are the "P" for processes for doing it. How much can you or can't you say about your decisions? How much should you justify them? How much should you mandate them?

Let us say those wise old elephants have at least given tacit support to the policy. Who is going to sponsor it and keep on the agenda as the process develops? Who is going to go to senior directors and ask them to pull their folk into line? How are those messages going to transmit through a company that, possibly, apart from payroll has no appropriate method for these types of communication?

My message to corporations is a simple one. Sort yourself out at the top. Put into place procedures and processes and only then consider the creation of a policy that is going to be committed to and enforced across the whole employee base. This will save you more than any supplier or intermediary will.

This post was republished with permission from the blog of former managing director of HRG UK Mike Platt.

Posted by: Limey Mike | More by Limey Mike

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