Are employees making decisions based on the prevailing culture of your organisation, or is compliance to corporate policy the biggest driver of their behaviour?
When it comes to corporate travel expenses, various groups of people are involved in the process. Often, they have differing priorities and objectives. Travel managers are concerned with enhancing compliance with travel expense policies. Finance managers are concerned about the bottom line. And travellers just want to be paid what's due to them. But is compliance about policies or people?
Compliance begins with a travel expense policy
Once a corporate policy has been written and shared with employees, the next step is to ensure travellers and claimants comply with its rules.
Technology is the first step towards enabling behavioural change
Technology is a powerful way of ensuring that claims are submitted appropriately, checked, and reimbursed within the recommended guidelines. But the challenge is to go one step further: to use the information (data) from the system to inform policy making decisions and drive changes in behaviour within your business to positive effect.
It's readily accepted that software delivers process efficiencies and can provide great information to help with decision making. However, software alone is not the complete solution.
It's about the people
When it comes to T&E expenses it's important to understand the emotions of the traveller - the guy who has left his family for 3 days and is spending his time and his money to travel on behalf of the business. Even if he's going to be reimbursed, it's important that he does so in line with the company policy. YouGov research shows that some 55% of expense claimants are either unaware of the expenses policy or even if one exists. Therefore it's no surprise to learn that in a similar survey again by YouGov, 28% of employees in large companies think it acceptable to exaggerate expense claims and 10% admitted to having done so in the past year.
A culture of policy compliance, vs. compliance with company culture
The question is, does the prevailing culture of the business influence attitudes towards policy compliance? This could be a good thing if the culture is one that recognises the need for policies and typically adheres to them. However, if a culture exists where boundaries are pushed and policies are seen as just a 'guide' then - bearing in mind the results of our survey above - this is likely to have a significant impact on the amount of exaggerated expense claims submitted by employees. For example, if expenses are rarely challenged by authorisers then it's not unreasonable to expect some employees to chance a few extra items on their claim. When one can purchase blank taxi receipts that are advertised as 'all different' then it's pretty easy to bump up the value of the expense claim.
Suggestions for changing corporate culture
Behaviour change is more effective when it's led from the top. Some ways of encouraging expense policy compliance is by training your managers on how to query an expense (the same YouGov survey revealed that only 7% of respondents had ever had a claim questioned) or how to engage with employees and emphasise the importance of policy compliance by explaining that there are good reasons for travelling with a specific airline or staying with a certain hotel chain. Set standards, and lead by example.
Concur and Hillgate - helping change behaviour through understanding
When organisations understand that compliance is about people, processes and software working together, then behaviour is likely to be more closely aligned with travel expense policy.
Organisations like Concur are helping make it easier and simpler to claim, submit, report on and reimburse expenses. And when the data from Concur's systems, and the booking process from partners like Hillgate work together in harmony, organisations can get a full picture of where business spend is going, and where they need to work a bit harder to encourage a positive cultural shift towards compliance.
Want to know more about behavioural change in action?
Attend the webinar entitled 'Carrot or stick? Developing an ethical workforce - behaviour change in action' or download the white paper about 'Cultural change: software, policy, people and compliance'.