T&E Gets More Strategic

Notoriously difficult to control, travel and entertainment is getting a harder look as companies seek to tap into savings — and to keep employees happy


Indeed, a report from workforce mobility specialist Runzheimer International with CFO magazine, "Insight and Best Practices Drive T&E Savings," found that companies must maintain up-to-date policies as "the primary defense against unnecessary spending" as part of a successful T&E expense management program. Runzheimer further suggested that the best T&E programs provide for both internal and industry/peer benchmarking, including spend information by individual and business unit, information on frequently visited locations and vendors, and policy compliance. Leaders also centralized control over T&E as one way to improve cost control — 29 percent of the organizations in the Runzheimer study reported that Procurement held responsibility for travel, while 34 percent said that Accounting/Finance oversaw T&E, while just 8 percent report multiple departments as running this category (the remainder pointed to HR, Administration, Corporate Services or "Other").

Greybeard's Bales says that the success of a T&E program often depends on the company's culture, and companies should ensure that the policies they put in place align with that culture. That said, she adds, "Some refer to it as 'travel guideline,' and some 'travel policy.' Clearly those with guidelines do not have as much control and at the end won't save as much as those that have policy."

T&E in Practice

For Tewksbury, Mass.-based natural pet food company WellPet (wellpet.com), a primary motivation for moving to a T&E expense management solution was speeding up the reimbursement cycle for its traveling employees. "The business pain was the length of time it took to process T&E for our employees," explains Jill Richards, accounts payable, accounts receivable manager at WellPet. "It was taking anywhere from three to 14 days due to snail mail."

A privately held, midsize firm formed in 2009 from the merger of Old Mother Hubbard/Wellness Natural Pet Food and Eagle Pack Pet Foods/Holistic Select Pet Food, WellPet elected to move its T&E expense management to a platform from Concur that combines online travel booking with automated expense reporting. The company moved on an aggressive six-week initial rollout of the initial Concur platform across the company, and Richards says that moving from a paper-based system to an online system was a cultural shift for WellPet's employees. "They were unsure how it would work," she says, "but once we held training Webinars, our employees felt less anxious and more in control of their T&E."

The ROI for employees came almost immediately, as they began to be reimbursed for their travel in days rather than weeks. "The response from all levels of employees has been very positive," Richards says, adding that she no longer hears complaints from employees about how long it takes to get reimbursed. Asked for advice for other executives looking to implement T&E expense management, Richards offers: "Don't wait too long. The end result is happy employees!"

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