As we all strived to move offline and resume some sense of normalcy last year, travel started to increase steadily again as companies tried to conduct some business face to face. The emergence of the Omicron variant in Southern Africa, however, slowed everything down and forced governments to double down on their efforts to tackle the virus with measures such as vaccine passports, booster programmes and other Plan B restrictions.
This ongoing cycle of new variants and ever-changing restrictions seems set to become part of a new normal. In turn, it’s no real surprise that it has impacted corporate travellers' awareness of safety. But with recent stats from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) showing that travel managers expect business travel volume in their companies to be up by 58 per cent in 2022 compared to 2021, companies need to understand how they can support their employees who will be impacted by new emerging travel risks, in addition to more familiar and established travel risks, such as natural disasters or civil unrest.
To that end, ISO 31030, the new international standard launched in late 2021, provides a valuable benchmark for organisations. Designed to help companies effectively manage travel risk, it comprises of guidance for four different areas that businesses should consider when staff are travelling abroad for work, including policy, threat and hazard identification, traveller management and mitigation strategies. It serves as a practical framework to help companies ensure traveller safety and improve confidence and will play a big part in Covid-19 recovery.
So, what should organisations consider in their process under the new international standard, ISO 31030?
Scope, context and risk criteria
The first thing to address is how the employees that will be travelling feel about the associated risks. Using a survey, companies can essentially get a grasp of potential concerns or anxieties directly from the source and use those to establish the necessary health and safety measures that appropriately respond to their employees’ needs.
Additionally, active participation from stakeholders and top-level leadership often results in risk managers delivering a more business orientated focus when it comes to implementing new measures. An example-led approach can help compel employees to put their trust into the corporate travel process by ensuring those at the managerial level also operate within the organisation’s policies.
Travel risk management process
Having access to competent and credible external suppliers is also a key step when managing travel risk. Indeed, onboarding suppliers that can facilitate access to local people on the ground who can help mitigate any situation and provide intelligence where needed, is absolutely critical to managing risk. These suppliers should be viewed as trusted advisers so that they truly offer the prospect of a more comprehensive and effective service delivery.
Prevention is always better than cure, and companies should look to develop and maintain a proactive risk identification strategy to anticipate potential risks and be prepared to effectively respond to any other challenges that arise. Supported by trusted suppliers and advisers, companies can regularly and proactively analyse risks, allowing them to respond to any threats while developing mitigating measures that are appropriate for each situation.
Having a proactive safety and wellbeing strategy provides a company with a distinct advantage.
Managing the traveller
Having taken proactive steps to minimise risk where possible, the next step is to help travellers understand the measures in place, as well as communicate how the company plans to manage the risks that it cannot control.
Organisations should consider the different concerns, expectations and needs that each traveller might have and incorporate that into the development of their strategy.
Communicating risk factors such as changing local conditions is crucial to maintain confidence amongst those who are travelling and promote safety. A combination of technology tools such as live alerts, risk assessments and traveller location tracking, which are included in Healix’s Sentinel services and the Covid Travel Safe tool, as well as direct human contact, are recommended for organisations to encourage employees to make the most of the services available to them on the ground.
Recording and reporting
Once employees have returned, gathering feedback is then a crucial step for the business to be able to identify any issues and potential opportunities for future improvement. Using the management information provided by the data from those technology tools, as well as traveller feedback, senior leadership and risk managers can put a clear plan in place to allow them to understand the trends, forecast potential future challenges and solve any issues quickly and effectively.
Business travel has always been and will hopefully remain a key part of business life. It helps companies maintain productive relationships with global offices, suppliers and clients all over the world as well as serving as a draw factor for recruitment if it is done properly. Therefore, ensuring the safety of employees needs to be a top priority for organisations. Having a proactive safety and wellbeing strategy provides a company with a distinct advantage. Companies should take the opportunity to refer to up-to-date guidance from the ISO 31030 standard and develop an effective risk strategy.