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Corporate Culture 2: Re-enforcing Your Culture When Employees Travel

Corporate Culture 2: The Power of Culture
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” Peter Drucker famously said. What he means is: if you get your employees’ attitudes and motivation aligned with your company’s values, everything else falls into place.
In this series, we are looking at different corporate cultures and different approaches to deliberately shape companies’ culture in ways that reinforce the companies’ goals. Travel, in my view, isn’t just a sales tool where you send people out to conventions and sales calls to sell product. How you treat your employees while they travel; how much you empower them to make their own choices; and what minimum (and maximum) standards you set for them while away from the office helps set the tone of your company’s over-all relationship to your people. Just as you must think carefully about your people’s work environment (office furniture, kitchen, meeting rooms, desk plan, etc.) inside the company, so you should give careful thought to the safety, comfort, and efficiency of your employees and they travel on behalf of your company. Setting travel policy is one way of doing this. And working closely with your travel management company to ensure your standards are adhered to is another.
Each company must decide how much they empower their employees to handle their own road trips. Some companies rely on a central in-house travel-planner, and we have seen this system work well in many cases. It helps ensure adherence to travel policy, while allowing for some flexibility. Other companies opt for a corporate booking tool which ruthlessly enforces strict policy adherence. This approach also has its benefits: it gives employees a sense of freedom by allowing them to select flights, hotels, and car rentals within company guidelines. It is also, however, a colossal time-waster, especially if we’re talking about those employees who are a bit “details-oriented” (to use an euphemism).  It can be the source of endless frustration, as employees go to war with a system that cannot possibly adapt to specific challenges of a trip.  And it can be very risky, as you are asking employees to make choices that would be far better handled by an experience travel consultant.  Mistakes will happen, and it is your company that will absorb the costs.  Hopefully, these mistakes never become ones that put your employees' safety at risk; but that too is a worry.
A third approach is to have ongoing discussions with your travel management company to ensure they understand your culture, your values, standards, and budgets. A good travel management company will enforce policy when necessary, but with a light touch; and will exercise all the discretion necessary to ensure your values are respected, as well as rules. If employee retention, engagement, and effectiveness are important to your company, use a travel professional to ensure these values are reflected while your employees are on the road as well as in the office.


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