April 22, 2024

Risky business

Travel managers have a key role to play as duty of care moves higher up the corporate agenda, says Bex Deadman at 8 Phase Consulting

Pre-pandemic travel manager roles often had an operational, procurement and cost-saving focus. Times have changed and in the last 18 months, particularly, more and more companies are thinking about travel from a security perspective.

Duty of care/risk ranks number two on ITM’s list of travel manager priorities for 2023 and supporting this there’s been a shift in the executive team hierarchy, so that compliance now ranks higher than finance.  

There has been a change in management, too. Where security exists in an organisation, approval for high-risk destinations, incident management and so on, now sits with senior management. The next logical step is to oversee all travel, recognising an incident can happen to anyone, anywhere. It is common now to see jobs for travel, safety and security specialists at exec level and below.

“There’s been a shift in the executive team hierarchy, so that compliance now ranks higher than finance”

Whilst the finance and the procurement input of a travel manager’s role remain important, what is more prevalent is the mitigation of risk and compliance to policy and process, alongside sustainable practices and keeping your people safe. This moves travel from a cost to control to a strategic driver in the business that should be aligned with the business strategy and business continuity frameworks.

We are already seeing change in the roles that travel managers are expected to play in supporting a company’s travel programme. Travel Risk Management (TRM) can support this evolution and we can create stronger programmes for it.

The management of travel from a risk perspective is a new skill for many travel managers and often responsibility for certain areas of TRM is spread out over a company, for example security (high-risk destinations), human resources (mobility), or line managers (approvals). 

So, where should travel managers start and what can they do to upskill and establish a TRM strategy in their business?

The key to TRM is firstly to understand what your travel programme is, in detail. Where do you travel to, why do you travel, who travels, how do they travel, what do they do when they are there and how often they are going. From here, look at your existing policies and solutions to understand where the gaps are. For example, if your TMC doesn’t support you in every country, what happens in those countries? If an incident happens, what is the internal process? Is it being followed at entity and country level?

Travel managers that are benchmarking against ISO31030 are leading the way in transforming travel programmes into travel safety programmes and have recognised early that while they have a major role to play in the operation and procurement of the programme, there are other stakeholders across the business that must be involved.

“Talking to your travellers will help you to understand if the solutions and systems you have in place are working as intended”

Mapping out the traveller journey with a TRM committee with stakeholders from HR, procurement, finance, legal, IT, security, risk, operations, sales, marketing, and so on will help you to see your travel programme from different perspectives. Talking to your travellers will help you to understand if the solutions and systems you have in place are working as intended.

TRM affects any business of any size but the smaller the business, perhaps the easier it is to get started. Whatever their size, companies managing travel as a risk need someone who understands both the travel and security sides, is competent in policy and process creation, and has experience with the suppliers and technologies, whether in house or outsourced. The good news is that travel managers are already well placed to take on that role.

Bex Deadman is a travel risk management expert who set up 8 Phase Consulting in May 2022. She previously held director level roles at Blue Cube Travel, including MD, and worked for Getabed and HRS.