ITIJ 208, May 2018
In an increasingly unpredictable world in which employees are going further afield in search of new business opportunities, health and safety risks are mounting. Mandy Langfield looks at the evolution of travel risk management (TRM) programmes for today's business traveller
The appetite for business travel to countries with limited medical care and volatile security situations has grown. At the same time, traditionally safe destinations have become less predictable, so having a comprehensive business travel risk management (TRM) policy is essential. Duty of care laws are clear about who is at fault if something happens to an employee abroad who has not been given the correct tools with which to prepare for their trip, and assistance companies and insurers can offer services to their clients to help them meet their legal requirements.
The times they are a-changing
Spurred by new norms of hyper-connectivity, on-demand services, greater personalisation and always-on support, business people expect a simpler and more flexible experience when travelling on behalf of their employers. According to new research from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), which was underwritten by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), travel managers are taking a more traveller-considerate approach to developing travel policies and programmes. The study, Managing the Modern Business Traveller, reveals how travel managers are addressing the expectations of modern business travellers to adapt and develop travel policies, and retain and improve compliance levels. “Business travellers have come to expect a personalised experience when they’re on the road, but many organisations continue to take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to travel policy, driving travellers to work outside the normal channels,” said Greeley Koch, Executive Director, ACTE. “While travel polices absolutely need to change to take
Travel managers are taking a more traveller-considerate approach to developing travel policies and programmes
individual needs into account, travel managers can – and should – tap into the travellers’ point of view to encourage them to do the right thing. After all, managers are on the hook for not only the safety of their travellers, but also the cost of doing business.”
Safety is key
While individual travellers need some flexibility from their employer – and that employer’s insurance provider – a centralised booking system that can manage exposure and response to travel risk variables is essential, says Randall Gordon-Duff, Head of Product – Corporate Travel, Collinson Group in the UK. Automating the process is essential to enable the organisation to ensure that risks are consistently managed and travellers do not fall between the gaps. Key to this is the automation of booking/ticketing approvals, through AI or algorithm, and linking them to a risk assessment process that manages both up-to-date and informed destination risk with the individual risk of the traveller profile. “Often,” added Gordon-Duff, “a TRM policy will not be valued until it is needed. Collaboration on policy definition between internal departments within a company (travel, HR, legal, risk management and procurement) is essential to establish the balance required for a successful and comprehensive programme. Staff should also have input which helps gain their buy-in and compliance to a programme that should resonate with road warriors and c-suite executives alike.”
Many corporate travel insurance policies include access to travel risk mitigation products, such as pre-deployment reports, pre-travel training and mobile tracking technology, to help employers fulfil duty of care obligations. Meanwhile, mobile technology and tracking devices enable employers to know exactly where staff are in relation to real-time medical and security risks, and to change travel itineraries accordingly. They can also allow travelling employees to post and receive health and security alerts, and request emergency medical and security assistance.
“The best risk mitigation policies,” said Jonathan Brown, Risk Team Manager at CEGA in the UK, “will unite medical and security needs (think of a patient needing a security escort for an ambulance journey to the airport). Medical and security assessments should identify everything from the location and standard of local medical facilities abroad, to the likelihood of terrorist attacks and the feasibility of evacuation plans in the event of a natural disaster. Pre-travel training should teach employees how to react to, and better still avoid, medical and security emergencies. And any existing medical conditions that may put employees and their families at increased risk should be identified.”
The new norm
Bleisure days are now a commonplace way for travelling employees to enjoy some ‘me time’ while they are travelling for work. Such activities throw into question the employer’s duty regarding travel risks, though, as not all policies will cover an employee’s own holiday bolted on to their work trip. Firms must tell their employees of any such restrictions, as well as pointing out that the person may be going off the beaten track, which was not part of an initial pre-travel risk assessment. “Those responsible for international business travel need to talk to their insurer or broker about what is and what is not covered in terms of bleisure days, to modify their policies accordingly and ensure this is clearly communicated to staff,” said Gordon-Duff. “According to our research, the legalities around employer accountability for those who bolt leisure days on to a business trip are a grey area. Despite one in 10 companies allowing bleisure travel, almost one-third do not extend the protection offered by their corporate travel risk policy to cover additional bleisure days. The findings raise concerns that employers may not be fulfilling their duty of care obligations to employees. It also means staffers could be spending added time abroad under the misguided belief that they are protected.”
Another new challenge for business travel risk management providers is the sharing economy – Airbnb, Lyft and Uber all make travelling around easier, but potentially riskier for the user, and these do not always work well within the traditional travel risk mitigation toolchest. Indeed, as Gordon-Duff pointed out: “The very nature of sharing economy service provision means there can be less control over quality and safety.” There are ways, though, to minimise the risks being taken: “Both Airbnb and Uber have corporate travel ‘versions’ of their services which include integration into travel management booking processes. This will also aid in reviewing performance and ensuring that staff do not book ‘off the grid’.”
The power of data
With business traveller expectations evolving, travel managers must look for ways to get into the traveller's mind and understand both their stated and unstated needs. One key method to achieve this is leveraging internal and external data. Ninety per cent of managers say they use travel management centre (TMC) travel and spend data, 76 per cent turn to card payment providers, 66 per cent leverage internal systems and TMC analysis, and 60 per cent assess internal policy compliance data, according to the ACTE report of 2017.
“Data can make a world of difference for the travel manager seeking to wrap their brain around a growing constellation of traveller needs and expectations,” said Koch. “But it’s not enough to gather the data; managers must actually analyse it and translate it into action. A successful, data-driven travel programme can achieve any corporate travel executive’s core objectives: positioning their travellers for success, while also demonstrating the travel manager’s value as a business leader.”
“It’s also important to remember that a successful travel programme can serve as an effective tool when it comes to
Those responsible for international business travel need to talk to their insurer or broker about what is and what is not covered in terms of bleisure days
attracting and retaining talent – a major consideration for today’s competitive business landscape,” added Philip Haxne, Regional Director, EMEA – Global Business Consulting for American Express Global Business Travel. “Strong programmes that contribute to employee happiness and productivity underscore the travel manager’s valuable role to the business as a whole.”
This idea was echoed by Gordon-Duff, not just in terms of attracting talent, but also pointing out that the right travel risk management programme will reward compliant employees. Automation can play a part in this area of travel risk management programmes as well, he said: “By combining a TRM smartphone app with the ability to photograph and submit expenses in real time, an employee’s whereabouts can be quickly triangulated if needed. Although there needs to be a clear delineation of when this form of tracking is utilised by the employer, and only in an emergency situation. Most effective TRM processes deliver all of this through some form of a digital interface that engages and supports staff throughout the journey, and in many cases ‘gamify’ the whole experience, making it less of an administrative burden and a far cry from the old tick-box experience of form filling and face-to-face justification to line managers.”
Data gathering can be fraught with legal issues – the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation and other
new privacy laws means that insurers have to be careful about what data they hold on their clients. However, it is an incredibly powerful tool that can serve the industry well in terms of product development. When it comes to enabling insurers to offer more personalised and relevant products, the availability of a broader data set is invaluable, said Gordon-Duff – although it’s not just about the products, it about the services associated with them: “Understanding your data, including claims, travel patterns and case outcomes, can also assist in improving decision-making within assistance. The oversight of a medical director within an assistance organisation will never be replaced by AI, as objective decisions on the best course of action for a patient, particularly in poorer health economies, will often be made on the basis of a myriad of factors including a physician’s gut feeling. However, assuming there is a critical mass of data experience in, say, treating malaria in Nairobi and associated patient outcomes with regards to treating in situ versus evacuation, this can only assist in expediting the process by providing a more evidence-based decision.”