With rising prices all across the travel industry ($4/gallon, anyone?), businesses everywhere are searching for ways to reduce their travel budgets without risking their bottom line. Here are three simple (and relatively painless) ways to cut business travel costs without damaging your business or employee morale.
1. Cross-train your employees.
The average two-person field sales team (sales rep + specialist) costs companies approximately $138,000 every year in local travel alone. Instead of sending multiple employees to the same meeting, cut your costs in half by cross-training a single employee in related specialties, such as sales and pre-sales or consultant and account rep.
For internal departments, like marketing, finance and human resources, limit the number of people who travel locally or nationally for conventions, press events or training. Instead, designate a spokesperson for each department to attend events and then train the department upon return.
2. Give employees a per diem, and let them make the choices.
Car service, high-end hotels, expensive nonstop flights and four-star restaurants might have been the standard during the dotcom bubble, but for businesses in a modern-day financial crunch, these luxuries are breaking the bank. Create a new rule book for your traveling employees: “Here’s how much you have. You choose how to spend it.”
By giving your employees a hard expense cap, you pay only what the budget can afford. Employees choose whether they want to A) splurge on a nonstop flight and pay out of pocket for the rest; or B) opt for less expensive flights, hotels, meals and transportation to stay within the company’s allotted budget. Just make sure your legal department is on board before implementing this or any other corporate travel policy.
3. Harness virtual technologies.
Just as you likely text your spouse the dinner plan, your employees are likely opting for tech-based communications with customers, vendors and partners as a supplement to face-to-face meetings. Invest in strategic technologies that enable communication and collaboration sans car or plane.
- Online communities: Interactive websites that enable employees, vendors and partners to collaborate virtually using Web 2.0 tools like document sharing, project management, wikis, social sharing and more. Popular tools include Jive Software, Yammer and Salesforce Chatter.
- Virtual collaboration apps: Online tools that allow people to meet face-to-face in a simple, browser-based interface. Tools like iMeet by PGi add webcam video, document sharing, note taking, social networking and video streaming for a true face-to-face meeting experience online. Popular tools include iMeet, GlobalMeet web conferencing and GlobalMeet Audio conference call apps.
- Document sharing: These services provide on-demand document sharing and accessibility through a website, which facilitates near-time document sharing, editing and posting. Popular tools include Dropbox, Box and Google Drive.
- Collaborative task management: These online tools make it possible for businesses to track activity, project updates and more without traveling to a face-to-face status meeting. Popular tools include Asana, Salesforce Do and Wunderlist.
Are these tools the perfect solution for cutting back on business travel costs? No. But they do start your business off in the right direction toward making positive changes in your travel budget costs. What do you think? Would your employees be responsible enough to budget their own trips? Or will you have an uprising on your hands?