Safety, risk, sustainability, and control of spend are common topics at the moment. As travel managers learn about and assess those and other challenges, they may ask themselves a gut-level question: How can I prove my value when we’re traveling less and budgets are lower?
The temptation is to go back to doing what you have always done, but it might not be the best approach for your organization or for you. This is the perfect time to re-evaluate not only your travel program but also your role.
In the days and years ahead, successful travel managers are expected to become strategizers instead of tacticians. Become thinkers as opposed to doers, the orchestra’s conductor instead of second fiddle. Make sure you’re in touch with how fellow employees feel about getting back on the road and be able to articulate to the organization the value of travel itself.
Thought leaders not heavy lifters
Look to travel management companies (TMCs) and technology to do the heavy lifting of booking, expensing, invoicing, information-sharing, and other elemental tasks so you can focus on the strategic role.
Collaborate with providers on ways to use their tools and tech to ensure your travel policies and priorities align with the goals of your organization. SAP Concur solutions provide many embedded and extended options to produce the data and reports necessary to track progress on goals and to help demonstrate travel’s value to upper management.
Think of the change as comparable to what HR has undergone. As HR moved from an administrative role into one of employee development and coaching, it became a more valued player in the C-suite. Travel managers could be, too.
A seat at the table
Study your company and other organizations, so you can answer the question that top management will have: What’s the value of meeting in person?
Engage with employees and learn how they feel about traveling again and what concerns they have. Become knowledgeable about what others in industry are doing with travel, because that’s something senior leaders often love to hear about. Think of it as a PR role, in a sense. Become the voice of travel in your organization.
Ask such questions as:
• What’s the ideal mix between in-person and remote contact?
• How do we ensure travel dollars are making the right impact?
• What are the signs we’re not traveling enough, such as lower trust scores, lower engagement, and less collaboration?
If you can frame those questions in the right way, then senior management can properly assess whether you’re traveling too much or too little. And that’s adding visible value to the travel manager’s role.
Undoubtedly, your organization’s travel goals and policies are changing. So, make sure you’re informing and taking part in the decision-making. This is certainly a challenging growth opportunity or even a stretch for some travel managers, but the success of your company and career could depend on it.
Travel experts Mark Ziegler, NetApp Inc.; Louise Kilgannon, Festive Road; Philip Wooster, CWT; and Scott Gillespie, tClara LLC, discuss how the roles of travel managers will evolve along with travel in their organizations, in a session from the SAP Concur Travel Industry Summit. Watch it HERE