Reports of corporate travel’s demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated, but companies aren’t spending as freely as they did pre-pandemic. As CFOs increasingly have a say in employee travel — and the need to balance expenses with duty of care rises — all-in-one travel and expense solutions are taking on a growing importance.
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The culture and policies around corporate travel have changed dramatically over the last three years. But business travel itself is not going anywhere. Managers are increasingly scheduling on- and off-site meetings that bring remote workers together, and they’re sending employees out on the road to prioritize face time and build their pipeline. In the process, their approach to trip management is rapidly evolving.
In this new environment, companies are no longer interested in providing hefty, one-size-fits-all trip budgets — as described in Skift’s 2022 Megatrends, this sort of resource management is increasingly in the hands of chief financial officers. However, as a responsibility to their employees and to mitigate risk, businesses are putting increased emphasis on duty of care at the same time — keeping employees safe and cared for whether they’re down the hall or across the country.
“Happy and well-supported employees lead to employees who are more engaged,” said Josh Abich, chief revenue officer at TravelBank. “Engaged employees lead to productive employees.”
With a possible recession hanging in the balance, CFOs are juggling tighter budgets and a desire and duty to support employees. Luckily, with the right technology in place, these two dynamics can stand in agreement.
A Responsibility to Carefully Manage Employee Travel
Corporate travel may be back, but it hardly looks the same as it did three years ago.
One reason for that is the emergence of remote work. With remote workers empowered by cloud technologies and an ever-growing set of productivity-boosting tools and software, teams are reaching a period of remarkable efficiency. But in-person collaboration creates a level of team connection that’s difficult to achieve through screens and virtual meetings — so managers are getting creative to bring folks together face-to-face. For many companies, that includes spending on travel.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of companies invest in bringing their remote teams together in person for ‘on-sites,’ sales kick-offs, and quarterly business reviews,” Abich said. “While the goal is to get work done, the value these events drive for company culture can’t be overlooked.”
With company travel comes responsibility — and companies are rightfully taking seriously their duty to create a set of guidelines and tools that enable a seamless and safe experience on the road. That means, for instance, making sure employees are cared for and supported in the event of a mishap. Flight concerns are becoming more common. According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data, more than one in five have been delayed so far in 2023.
“While you certainly want to have the contingency plans in place, this doesn’t have to be about a natural disaster or crisis,” said Abich. “It could be about ensuring employees will have access to dedicated travel agents who will help them get back on the road in the event of mass flight cancellations like the FAA outage in February.”
CFOs Are Increasingly Managing Travel and Duty of Care
CFOs are more involved with corporate travel than ever. In a post-pandemic world in which companies have now lived through, survived, or even thrived within a period of restricted travel, travel budgets face more and more financial scrutiny.
Combine that with the storm clouds of a possible recession, and it’s no wonder CFOs are on the hunt for travel and expense management solutions that can make their lives easier and their bottom lines happier. These tools can help companies stay compliant while providing useful features for employees — including alerts when it’s time to supply an expense receipt, an area ripe for automation, as manual expense report processing costs companies $26 in person-power. Meanwhile, accounting teams spend an average of 3,000 hours each year correcting errors, according to the Global Business Travel Association.
CFOs may also have noticed the cash-killer that is unused tickets, which can make up 5 percent to 7 percent of a company’s travel budget. They’re often treated as lost causes, but they’re not. With proper management, companies can usually get refunds or flight credits. More potential ticket savings: Trips including at least 10 employees will generally qualify for preferred pricing discounts, but companies often miss the discounts out of a lack of planning and coordination across remote workforces.
It’s no wonder financial leaders are craving travel management solutions. In a recent survey of 640 corporate leaders in the U.S. and Canada — which will be featured in an upcoming Skift report published in partnership with TravelBank — 81 percent of CFOs said they’re either “very” or “somewhat” interested in a tool, app, or program that makes it easier to plan group travel. Meanwhile, 84 percent want something that makes it easier to track expenses during blended trips that combine business with leisure. Their interests have gone unfulfilled: Less than 1 percent said they had a solution for either.
An all-in-one business travel and expenses solution, such as TravelBank’s platform, allows CFOs to control costs while benefiting employees. Such solutions can reduce the overall cost of ownership by consolidating several disparate systems into a single platform. They’re also able to build policies and budget parameters into the app so that employees don’t spend outside the realm of company policy, but do gain the flexibility to select their own travel plans. Finally, an all-in-one app can help companies reduce their travel spend by calculating dynamic trip budgets based on their route flown or incentivizing traveling employees to beat their hotel budget with rewards from within the platform.
Managing Post-Pandemic Travel Spend
As companies explore implementing new travel technology, they should keep a few principles in mind. For one, with expense reports up and travel reliability down — roughly 24 percent of the domestic flights of U.S. airlines were delayed and 3.2 percent were canceled in the first six months of 2022 — customer support is imperative. That ensures employees get their issues resolved quickly.
Companies are also smart to invest in automation. Finance and accounting teams have enough on their plates already, and automating manual tasks can help them put focus on risk mitigation and cost optimization.
Finally, it’s important not to take the implementation process for granted — giving it the time and attention it needs will ensure companies are set up to properly capture the value of the tech. “Workforces have become more tech-savvy, but there’s also tech fatigue,” Abich said. “Make sure they see why the new solution benefits them.”
To learn more about TravelBank’s all-in-one travel and expense management platform, click here.
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