Every company has a few employees who violate company travel policy repeatedly. It seems no matter how many times you remind them, they repeat policy violations. Is it that they are just unwilling to follow the rules that drives their out-of-policy behavior? Probably not. More than likely, it stems from a lack of understanding and a breakdown in communication between travel & expense (T&E) program managers and travelers.
In other words, it may be more about you than them. But fear not. Here are some tips to improve compliance among repeat offenders.
Know who your repeat offenders are.
Do you know all of your repeat offenders? If you are not analyzing 100 percent of expense reports and purchase card transactions across ALL time, then you don’t know your repeat offenders. Too many companies rely on sample audits and slice-in-time audits that match expense reports to receipts and policies looking for violations. It takes too much effort for these auditors to dig into expense reports over time, so they deal with what is in front of them today. This makes it almost impossible to identify repeat offenders. You need to analyze transactions over an extended time horizon to find patterns of non-compliance that should be corrected.
Dealing with repeat offenders can be uncomfortable for both parties. It’s critical that travel program managers address violations as quickly as possible. Remember that most employees want to do the right thing; they don’t always know what the right thing is or don’t realize that they are violating policy.
For instance, a traveler who books flights or hotels outside of policy may think he is saving the company money when he books a cheaper hotel or flight on a non-preferred vendor. He doesn’t know that the company receives a discount with preferred vendors that depends on hitting certain booking thresholds. So, when he books a hotel out of policy, he is costing the company an overall discount. The sooner you correct this behavior, the more money your company will save in the long run.
Address the root cause of the issue.
Repeated violations could be your travelers’ way—albeit passive aggressively—to show you that they find a policy frustrating or that they don’t think a policy applies to them. An artificial intelligence-based tool like Oversight’s Insights On Demand analyzes all transactions and provides organizations with one-click visibility to manage repeat offenders and identify the root causes of recurring violations.
Understanding the root cause helps you to identify training opportunities, make policy changes, and eliminate inefficiencies. You may even find that insight from a repeat offender inspires a policy change. One Oversight customer had several travelers who regularly broke their “no in-room movies” policy. Looking at the data, they found that travelers who watch in-room movies spend less money per stay than those who do not. This spurred the company to change the policy.
Keep your culture in mind.
Confronting a repeat offender should not come down like a ton of bricks. Your goal is to simply redirect employees to make better choices. You need to keep your culture in mind and gently encourage employees to follow expense policy. It’s best to develop a set of email templates to address policy violations and educate employees on how to resolve spending issues. Give employees the time to learn from their mistakes and correct the behavior.
While email is the preferred method of communication, a constant barrage of generalized policy reminder emails is ineffective. These types of policy reminders will be ignored. Communication needs to be specific to the individual employee and the policy they’re struggling to follow. Personalized communication helps clarify your policy, reduce the risk of fraud and drive up compliance. It also reinforces the point that employees are being monitored—people behave better when they know they’re being watched.
Document, document, document.
Face-to-face meetings have their place. But, when push comes to shove, talk is cheap, and a paper trail speaks volumes. Travel managers need to document steps taken to resolve the repeated violations. This means tracking the pattern of behavior, the information, warnings, and resources provided to the employee, and the failure of the employee to change. Automated solutions that include built-in case management make it easy to facilitate and document the remediation process by logically prioritizing and presenting cases, providing a case research workflow, and documenting steps taken to resolve cases.
Want to learn more about dealing with repeat offenders and changing employee behavior? Download our new eBook “6 Tips to Improve Your Employees T&E Spending Habits.”
Julia Versaci is Director, Solutions Development at Oversight Systems.