T&E compliance can be a source of stress for your staffers and a strain on your company’s pocketbook … especially when employees don’t follow your policies to the letter.
And while ideally travelers and managers should follow the rules because they’re there, that doesn’t always happen.
With as big of a budgetary bite T&E takes it’s worth a little creativity to do what you can to keep compliance up and unnecessary costs down in the process.
8 that will make them take notice
We’ve assembled eight proven strategies that Finance can use to improve T&E compliance, whether you want to embrace a sweet-as-sugar approach or tough-as-nails tactics. You might even want a combination of both for best results:
Strategy 1: Offer bonus travel tips. Some of your peers embrace a “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” approach. There are so many resources online that can help travelers these days. For example, A/P might email employees a link to where they can find the cheapest gas in the area (to make that mileage rate reimbursement go further). Those little gestures of good will could pay off in better rule following.
Strategy 2: Post a FAQ list. Why make employees come to Finance with questions if you can preemptively cut them off at the pass? Whether it’s on your intranet or a memo, try assembling a list of the most frequently asked questions about your company’s T&E policy, complete with answers the way you want them. This isn’t a one-and-done deal, though. You want to update the list as you see new questions or confusion cropping up.
Strategy 3: Remind them now and then. Fact: Not every employee is thinking about your T&E policy at every moment. That’s why it’s smart to try and keep it top-of-mind. Simple “remember, Hertz is our company’s preferred car rental company” or a “don’t forget we need printed, not handwritten, receipts from cab rides” emails every so often will help keep travelers on track. (And they won’t be able to say they didn’t know after the fact!)
Strategy 4: Catch errors before they reach you. Ideally any compliance issues should never make it to Finance because the approving supervisor spotted them first. Not always the case, as your staffers will attest. But you can try to head them off at the pass. Brainstorm with A/P about the most common mistakes they see when processing expense reports. Then make up a list of things to watch for all supervisors with T&E approval authority. You might not be able to catch everything but with a list of what to watch for, you should see a marked decrease in the reports you have to bounce back.
Strategy 5: Individual travel statements. This is one big-company trend even the smallest of employers can adapt. Companies like Accenture have begun offering each employee a personal dashboard highlighting everything from how much they spent on T&E in a year to how much money they could have saved by using preferred suppliers, booking travel at least two weeks in advance, etc. But you don’t have to be automated like the Jetsons to benefit. The whole idea is to make individual employees accountable and get them to start treating the company’s money like their own. Success has been huge with this one – and A/P likely already has all the data needed to do it at their fingertips.
Strategy 6: Spot audits. By now few companies still audit every line item on every expense report that comes through Finance – not the most cost-effective approach. That makes random, spot audits your best practice. And since no one will know when it’s his or her report that’s pulled for some extra scrutiny, you can hope that will keep employees honest and in line. Just make sure employees and managers know your department does this.
Strategy 7: Make it matter to managers. Yes, it’s important for the employees traveling to follow policies. But supervisors are the one whose job descriptions likely include keeping expenses down. Why not see if holding T&E expenses down can be specifically added to approving managers’ compensation criteria? That will get them scrutinizing expense reports more closely before they push them off on Finance.
Strategy 8: Hold your ground. Some A/P people tell us they think repeat policy-flouters should be fired! That may be too severe a stance if no fraud’s involved, but you do want staffers to know they can refuse to make exceptions when folks inevitably ask for them. The key: Make sure your people know you have their back and that should someone appeal one of your staffers’ calls that you’ll support their policy enforcement.