Over the past 6 weeks we have all been living with and experiencing unprecedented change, with challenges many have never contemplated let alone had to face before. As we learn from the past, it is the right time to plan for the future. With this in mind, TI has outlined a starting path for you to consider as you commence your return to travel strategy.
This first communication (as part of a weekly series) focuses on what you should be considering now while we await further information from our local governments, and how our supplier community will be responding by way of additional inventory for flights, hotels and rental cars.
What You Can Do Today:
We have broken down our recommendations into four primary topics:
- Aligning with Key Stakeholders
- Reevaluating Policy Shifts for Improved Duty of Care
- Communicating – both with Travelers as well as your Supplier Partners
- Begin a Timeline
Aligning with Key Stakeholders
Whether the travel program falls within Procurement, Finance, Operations or Shared Services, the impact of employee travel will touch each area of your business. It is important that you engage regularly with your peers and fellow stakeholders to understand the impacts of the pandemic on their portion of your business, the overall company culture, and understand how travel will interweave with the current financial impact and upcoming budgeting.
The first step is to ensure a solid understanding of your safety and security teams, as the majority of the weight is likely to be falling on their shoulders and it is important that you have a seat at that table. The next step is to engage with your finance team by understanding the shifts required for short term budget planning and outlining how the impact to travel spend will be gradual due to reclaiming the majority of previous spend by way of unused tickets in addition to new travel spend. This should then be followed by Human Resources to ensure your people are well communicated to and their safety and well-being are top priority.
Whether your company is large or a start-up, the benefit from cross functional team planning will assist in a smooth transition. If working virtual, do not feel you are in a silo. This is the best possible time to reach out and have travel program discussions. Come with ideas to share, or simply to ask how you can help – your contribution will be embraced and appreciated. Some suggestions include:
- Finance: Travel and Procurement Managers can provide intelligence on unused ticket balances and/or recurring reports to show travel spend year over year.
- Human Resources: Provide a listing of profiled and unprofiled travelers to align with any shifts in employment. Consider updating messaging within your online booking tool to coincide with any communications you wish to make your travelers aware of as they commence booking new travel.
Reevaluating Policy Shifts for Duty of Care
It is important to understand that during this time, every company is experiencing challenges and each of you are working diligently to overcome them. Even the most highly managed travel programs identify areas for improvement internally as well as with their partner offerings. TI suggests you utilize this time for a “reset” and to reevaluate what shifts to your policy – whether significant or minor, should be considered by your executive management.
First step is to outline what worked and what did not. It is very important to outline the value of your current program and how you were able to get each of your travelers home safely and effectively. However, there are also likely gaps where you would have liked to have different processes in place, or improved technology to provide more efficiency to the process. List these out and prioritize them.
Finding the balance between your corporate culture and the safety and security of your travelers is obtainable and within reach. Your existing guidelines may be sound, but it may be time to evaluate underutilized technology tools and define solid communications outlining the ‘Why’ behind the ‘What’ within your policy. You likely have some examples whereby an employee who booked outside of the preferred channels had a more difficult time adjusting their schedule home than others who did book according to your policy. Use these examples to tell your story and to change future buying behavior!
Make sure to discuss duty of care best practices with your account management team. They are equipped with years of experience of supporting many different types of companies and cultures and will bring to you new ideas for consideration as you balance your needs and reset your program.
Communicating – with Travelers and Supplier Partners
Transparency in all communication is key. As so many variables are still in play, there are equally as many opinions as facts when it comes to returning to travel. We will all benefit from open and honest discussions, as it is this collaboration that fosters trust within your company and true partnership with your preferred partners.
Travelers: As many of your travelers have been adjusting over the past weeks, the various circumstances have put an emotional toll on their view of travel, such as a need to hurry back to get in front of their clients, or potential anxiety about getting back on the road. TI recommends that you survey your travelers to identify their interest in returning to travel. Find out if they have any specific concerns about health while traveling, or even general thoughts relating to the effectiveness of video webinars as a temporary means to bridge the gap of the return to travel. Understanding their concerns and desires will help ensure your upcoming messaging is on point, relatable and welcomed.
Preferred Partners: If you haven’t heard directly from your preferred partners, now is the time to be transparent and reach out to them. Each of your preferred suppliers are anxious to get back to a foundational return of travel and is there to help you identify opportunities where you may still have concerns or obstacles in moving forward. Remember to consider the impacts of your decisions now. Keep doors open and discussions fluid, as the partnerships forged through this time will be remembered and appreciated for years to come.
Begin a Timeline
Most companies will focus on the return to the office, followed by a gradual return to travel. The return to travel will require a collaborative phased-in approach as our suppliers expand their availability and airports outline their new screening and boarding processes.
TI recommends that you begin by agreeing internally how you define essential or critical travel, as this could impact one part of your organization for a specific company and a totally different segmentation of travelers for another. Example, if you are a manufacturer, the essential may be visiting your plants to ensure measures are in place for effective ramp up, whereby for others, essential may be road warriors for revenue sales growth.
As you start to think about your timeline, take into consideration the following components:
- What is your company dependent on for financial growth and stability? This will likely define your “essential” traveler base.
- Who are the travelers that will most easily adapt to challenges in the early days of the return to travel, accepting delays and patiently working within the new industry processes?
- Review your prior spend via Open Ticket reporting. TI has recently enhanced Evolution reporting to incorporate the extension dates for unused tickets, including the ability for you to self-serve and pull these reports directly in real time.
- Work with your Account Managers to stay engaged and informed. TI will continue to be a valued resource to assist with this information, including updates to our COVID-19 Information hub on our website.
In summary, TI is here for you. We recognize the challenges faced and understand the importance of future decisions that we all must make. We remain committed to our personalized approach to your business’ success and our ability to be here when you need us!