Employee travel can be a difficult task to manage for small businesses. Large corporations have people whose sole job is to create a seamless travel experience for their employees. With far fewer resources, small businesses don't have the same luxury, so it often falls upon the business owners to ensure that employees have positive travel experiences.
Here are four crucial ways you can immediately make travel better for your employees:
1. Make sure they get reimbursed.
The report found that 43 percent of small business employees forfeited travel expenses last year, averaging $893 per employee. The cause was "either because they did not think the expense was worth filing or because their employer never paid them the money owed."
You can imagine that going on a trip and spending unanticipated money that never gets reimbursed can be quite frustrating. It has happened to me on a few occasions at some of the startups I've worked for. That's caused me to resent the companies and to avoid work travel where possible.
It's certainly important to set clear company policies on expenses and reimbursement, since you probably don't want to pay for your employees to go out clubbing at night. Take the time to ensure your employees track expenses and fill out reports when they get back. It's is a simple, easy thing you can do to stave off problems down the line.
2. Help them book affordable travel.
The survey found 37 percent of small business travelers felt the most stress before a trip when they're booking and arranging travel. It's your job to support them in booking travel more easily and cost-effectively. Flight and lodging expenses are coming out of your pocket, so if employees want your support in reducing those costs, then you should lend them a hand.
Inform employees as early as possible about the dates of travel. The more advance notice they have, the cheaper the options they'll be able to find. You can show them tools like Google Flights to compare different airlines, and suggest Airbnb as an alternative lodging option.
If you have traveled extensively, you might think booking flights and finding accommodations is easy. However, it's likely your employees lack the same level of experience. They will appreciate the support. This is especially important since they're spending your money, not theirs.
3. Adopt better technology.
According to the same study, 70 percent of small-business travelers believe their companies are behind in adopting the latest technologies that could simplify business travel.
Consider what your employees' travel experiences will look like and what technology you can throw into the mix to support them. That technology can include expense tracking software, itinerary management, and even ways to communicate effectively with other traveling colleagues and with the team back home.
Also consider technology that can assist with travel-related activities. If they are going to a trade show, for example, setting them up with an efficient CRM app will make it easier for them to share contact information and remember the people they meet.
If you want to go above and beyond, you could even give employees travel gadgets and tips to improve their trip, like a portable phone charger or recommendations of activities and places to eat or visit during their downtime.
4. Prioritize safety.
The safety of your traveling employees should be your biggest priority. Slightly over half of business travelers cite travel safety as the most valuable training their company could provide, but over half of travelers don't think safety is one of their company's top priorities.
Whether you're prioritizing safety or not, you can bet your employees are. For example, 58 percent of respondents said they have changed their travel arrangements because they felt unsafe. 77 percent of female business travelers have reported some form of harassment or mistreatment while traveling. Moreover, 95 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers hid their sexual orientation while traveling for work. The biggest reason was to protect their safety (57 percent).
Read up on best safety practices and share them with your employees before travel. Additionally, consider where your employees will be sleeping, whether it's a motel or an Airbnb rental. Don't save a few dollars by putting your employees up in an unsafe area.
If you pay careful attention to your employees' safety and value their time and money while they travel, it shows them you care about their overall well-being. Ultimately, these team members will be more likely to devote time and energy to making future business trips a success.