Booking a business trip can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Business travel is often the best way to expose your business personnel to a wider net of clients and suppliers. Also, it is the best way to expose the world to your business. Whether pitching for investors or networking at an industry event, consider these tips for mastering business travel for yourself and your employees.
1. Booking Sites
Whether you are booking flights for your employees or your employees are booking flights for themselves, become familiar with the leading flight booking sites. When it comes to booking hotels, the same site you used to book flights may also find you great deals on hotels. However, joining a hotel rewards program or a rewards program for a booking website like Hotels.com can build up for free hotel stays later on.
When booking flights and hotels, know your priorities regarding convenience and savings. Everything is a trade-off. So if you focus on saving the company money, you may be asking your employee to get on a 5 am flight and take a layover or two. However, if you focus on convenience, your travel expenses will expand rapidly as you try to find flights that are non-stop and departing during the day.
2. Not All Days are Equal
If you’re trying to save the company money, booking flights that leave and return on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are generally far cheaper than booking on other days of the week.
3. Tracking Receipts
If you request your employees to keep track of their receipts for reimbursement or if someone is in charge of the company credit card, make it easier for your employees to keep track of those receipts. Your payroll or HCM software should offer an employee self-service tool which will allow the employee to take a picture of their receipts using their smartphone, upload it directly to their employee portal making it easy for business travelers to keep track of and submit travel-related expenses.
Insist that your employees use the tools available to them, and then make sure they know how to upload receipts and record expenses. Your finance team will be extremely grateful, and it will also make your employees’ lives much easier.
4. Business Credit Card
If the company does not already have a corporate credit card, you should get one (or two). Many of the top credit card companies offer loyalty programs that you can cash in for free trips later. Among the leading card providers with excellent rewards are American Express and Capital One. It is not uncommon for some businesses to collect a wide array of business and airline credit cards that have great ways to earn points. Whatever you choose, make sure that you keep track of your balances and exercise your authority to set up spending caps for those cards that are issued to employees.
5. Travel Insurance
Nothing is worse than a long-anticipated business trip going badly. Accidents and tragedies happen, and if your employees’ lives are negatively affected during a business trip, you need to make sure that you have their back. Examine how some of the leading travel insurance policies work and select one before your employees leave. Make sure that your employees know about their policy and how to file a claim in the event of an accident/ emergency.
Teach your employees to anticipate the contacts that they will make at an upcoming event. Using networking tools such as LinkedIn can help your employees pre-network. Some companies actually require their traveling employees to have a meeting or two booked before leaving for their event.
While at a business event, your employees may still be juggling some of their regular workloads. Additionally, it is not always clear to your employees what is expected of them during their business travels.
Therefore, take some time with these employees to lay out the company’s expectations while they are away. Make sure that they have pockets of time in their schedule to take care of their regular work activities, even they have someone filling in for them in their absence. Give your employees goals to achieve while at the event and incentivize those goals with prizes.
8. Company Travel Policy
Many of the suggestions above form a portion of the company’s official corporate travel policy. The corporate travel policy should clearly layout for all traveling employees what the company’s expectations are of them, from scheduling to who books what to budget to dress code to how they conduct themselves. Walk your employees through the company’s corporate travel policy before each trip. If your business does not yet have a formal corporate travel policy, it might be helpful to work with a business attorney and your human resources department.
9. City Tours
It may seem like a small thing, but one of the best things you can do for your employees is to book them a group tour of the city where they will be visiting. Make sure to set it up with a tour ranked well with Yelp and Travel Advisor. The tour should give your employees an overview of the city, as well as be an informative and fun perk. Do your best to set up the tour at the beginning of their visit. Not only could the tour help your employees bond and relax and get over the jet lag, but it will also help them know some of the hot spots to visit later on their own time or with a prospective client.
When your employees return from their trip, sit down with them and find out how it went. If you had incentives for employees reaching certain goals while at the event, formally reward these employees together. Make sure to also invite feedback about the trip with questions like:
- What about the trip was helpful to their job and for the company?
- What did they learn?
- What about the trip was difficult?
- What improvements can the company make for future business travel?
- Was the event profitable, and should the company return?
As you prepare the company and your employees for their first business trip, make sure that you use the travel tips above both to protect your employees as well as make sure that they have a good experience. While business travel can be a hassle, it is also one of the best ways to grow your business and to develop your employees as they meet with new clients and suppliers.