Given the state of the global economy, many companies are initiating strict policies to curb spiralling overheads. Yet employees still abuse loopholes in the system, particularly when it comes to business travel. Kim Parker, Wings Travel Management’s head of business development, corporate, in sub-Saharan Africa, says this is often due to a particular company culture that allows for rogue travel expenditure and a lack of adherence to corporate travel policies. Such a culture costs companies millions each year.
“We definitely see that corporate culture has an effect on traveller behaviour,” says Parker. “For example, we have a client whose ceo would only travel in economy class. He has very low tolerance for any C-level or line manager who travels outside of this policy, and thus there are hardly any rogue travellers who do not conform to policy.
“However, another client is far less strict on policy. If an employee travels to London and books a business-class seat it does not really matter, because the value that the traveller is going to bring to the business is in the millions. In this company culture, they do not really mind if travel is not strictly in line with company policy. This culture filters down and employees lower in the hierarchy feel if those in C-levels can fly business class, then so can they. In the long run, the cost associated with non-adherence, and non-enforcement to company policies can run into the millions.”
Parker says another aspect of traveller behaviour that can prove costly to companies is when a traveller books a flight on a date very close to the date of departure or makes last-minute changes to flight details. For instance, a traveller may come out of a meeting early and decide to change their ticket to catch an earlier flight.
Parker also identifies that there is a trend toward travellers disregarding company policy when it comes to airline choices and booking flights on certain carriers to gain frequent flyer benefits, instead of booking with the most cost-effective carriers. Similarly, employees may stay in a hotel of their preference instead of accommodation that is in line with company policy. They may also choose to drive a luxury rental car or make use of a chauffeur-driven service instead of the most viable financial option.
Once an employee engages in this behaviour without any repercussions from the line manager, others know that they can also ignore the rules. “This is, unfortunately, something that the travel management company cannot address,” says Parker. “It is up to the line manager to take this up with the employee and create a culture where rogue behaviour is not tolerated.
“However, a TMC can play an important role in helping companies to curb their expenditure. We highlight to the travel manager, or person responsible for travel, the impact that certain behaviours could have on their travel spend. Our suppliers also keep us up to date on traveller behaviour and we can relay this information to the company, to help them devise cost-saving initiatives.”
“In these instances, Wings Travel Management will send a goData report to the client to give a breakdown of the behaviour and its implications for company expenditure. We also advise on implementing strategies to improve savings, such as booking flights no less than one week in advance.
“The main implication of poor traveller behaviour is the financial burden it places on the company. There are also non-financial repercussions. For instance, when travellers are ‘under the influence’ on a flight or arrive late at a guesthouse and are abusive to the staff. We often hear about this from our suppliers and the traveller’s company can suffer considerable reputational damage as a result.
“In these instances, we do get in touch with the client to discuss what could be a sensitive subject. Fortunately, we maintain a close relationship with our clients to ensure that we can be frank about poor behaviour from their employees. In these instances, we have not seen any relation between company culture and poor behaviour. It is usually just a handful of individuals who act in a way that could bring their employers into disrepute,” concludes Parker.