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The balance between policy enforcement and rewarding good behavior in business travel

by Kim Andreello

From recognition to punishment for non-compliance, today’s corporations have a wide variety of tools available to persuade business travelers to adhere to their travel policies and make the decisions necessary to keep costs down.

Spurred in part by the desire to retain traveling employees in a tight job market, coupled with the rise of partner travel technology companies and perhaps evolving management philosophies – one of the strongest tools for persuading employees Travelers in some sectors is gaining popularity: reward them for complying.

The idea of ​​directly rewarding employed travelers with tangible returns (think gift cards or real cash, not just points, badges, or medals) is neither new nor universally accepted. After all, many companies for years have been happy to split the cost difference with travelers staying with a friend or a relative’s home on the road rather than in a hotel.

What is different today, in a world where business travelers are often very accustomed to browsing a wide range of travel options and booking via smartphones, is that technology and corporate cultural changes have helped elevate the concept in the minds of some decision makers.

The company’s travel policies offer more options and are being adopted in some areas to attract and retain talent. People physically reward travelers for making better cost decisions, while still offering them the power to chooseamong different options.

Rewarding today’s business travelers most often manifests itself in two scenarios. For employees who book a lower class of air service than allowed by policy, the company calculates the difference between the higher rate and the reserved rate and gives half of the savings to the employee. Or the company will offer compensation for those staying in lower-level accommodations or private residences on the road.

However, those are not the only scenarios. Corporations, usually the largest, with managed travel programs, experts say, are experimenting with awarding gift cards for policy-compliant actions, such as booking air travel with sufficient lead time or booking through the channels preferred by the company.

“We have a client who went through the acquisition of a corporation, which meant that his travel patterns began to change. So they [carried out] a big search in the particular market they were flying into, “Kalka said, pointing to a conflict between the two companies’ preferred travel provider lists. To encourage new hires to use the acquiring company’s vendors, “they’re looking to Starbucks gift cards to fulfill that because they’re not in a culture where they’re going to enforce it.”

Resisting the urge to punish right away

The mandates of corporate travel policies and the consequences of non-compliance continue to play a role in a lot of programs, but many organizations prefer to avoid them. Some companies prefer to allow travelers to make the necessary financial decisions to help ensure successful trips.

Several managers are wary of a persistently low unemployment rate in the US and the role that travel policies and procedures can play in retaining top talent.

The need to attract or retain top talent could deter even the most cost-conscious company from imposing policy caps on classes of service, for example, but paying those travelers to forgo them could allow the company to have the cost control measures in place but show enough flexibility to make it an appealing choice for the traveler.

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