A business traveler might wonder sometimes what a travel manager does. On the other hand, you, as a travel manager, might feel your travelers do not understand your position, or the importance of your role in improving travel for employees. This is a common scenario in many businesses and organizations where internal communication fails to properly deliver. As a result, travel policy weakens and languishes until becoming ineffective.
Obviously, when travel managers don’t get their message across, travelers will have difficulties adhering to the rules. A travel policy is only as good as it is known. And, if it’s unknown, travelers will start, for example, staying at pricier hotels, booking on their own, generating unwanted commissions or using ridesharing services, which are not permitted by policy.
Travel manager as a communicator
A day in the life of a travel manager typically comprises of a tremendous variety of tasks. From setting travel policies and negotiating with suppliers to reporting and assisting travelers on the road – the tasks of a travel manager stretch too thin across many priorities. On top of that, travel managers must be skillful communicators to ensure anyone in their company is aware of the latest adjustments to policy, or the introduction of a new preferred booking tool for example.
For travel managers, budget, cost control and duty of care are often bigger priorities. But the truth is those activities will not be successful without an effective travel policy communication plan. Travel managers need to start dedicating more time to spreading the message of their policies and actions.
We’ve brainstormed five communication activities that travel managers can easily put into practice to bridge the gap and reconnect with travelers.
Hold in-person meetings
Email, chat, video, intranet newsletters, info screens… No matter how many communication channels we have nowadays, a good old fashion in-person training or meeting is always more effective. You can for example, hold pre-travel briefings with new travelers. After the meeting, do not forget to reinforce the message with follow-up emails and reminders.
Ask for feedback
Ironically, at many companies, travel managers are the employees that travel the less. Therefore, don’t forget communication is a two-way process and ask for as much feedback as you can. Get reports from the field, prepare a short questionnaire for your travelers to fill out and be open to new ideas and ways of working based on traveler experience. How was the hotel location, the service, amenities, for example?
Celebrate one travel day a year
Pitch your management the idea of organizing your own travel fair. Lasting one day or perhaps just a half, reach out to your travelers in a meaningful, and dedicated, way. On the agenda, you can include activities like hands-on booking tools, focus groups and hotel presentations.
Create a traveler handbook
Documentation will reinforce your message and solve many questions travelers might have, without the need to send multiple emails. Writing documentation is tough, but in the long-term, it will save you a great deal of time. Explain what we mean by travel policy, go into detail about assistance and insurance programs and make clear which the preferred booking channels are (and how to get login details). Such handbooks will be particularly important to newcomers or other employees who haven’t been on a business trip in a long time. The handbook must be a cornerstone of your travel policy communication and your defined guidelines – keep it always up-to-date and promote it as a reference document for travelers.
Design and hand out emergency cards
What happens when flights are canceled or your traveler needs to amend a hotel booking while away on business. In a stressful situation, your travelers want to find a quick answer. Design and hand out an emergency card to your travelers before they go on a trip. Make it the size of a business card so travelers can easily carry it in their wallets.