The role of the Travel Manager (also in the more enlarged version of Travel & Mobility Manager) is often overlooked and not yet fully understood.
Even in larger organisations, which have already started managing their Business Travel in a structured way, the Travel Manager responsibilities, the challenges she faces, her objectives and goals, and above all what are the benefits of having a Travel Manager rest sometimes in the realm of speculation.
So, I hope to make some clarity around who is the Travel Manager, what are the key activities that she performs resulting in an efficient and effective Travel Programme and happy Travellers.
In the last weeks I shared my point of view on Who is the Travel Manager, and on What are her activities responsibilities.
This week, I’ll explore the skills needed by the Travel Manager (How) in what organisations you can find her (Where). In the end, I’ll highlights the benefits of having a Travel Manager in your organization (Why).
Are you ready?
The Travel (& Mobility) Manager navigating the turbulent modern world must develop new skills which serve to achieve the goals of any Travel Programme.
Empathy & Active Listening
These are two new key skills, but two critical ones to ensure the programme can achieve the goal of a superior Traveller’s Experience.
Through Empathy and Active Listening the Travel Manager will be able to look beyond the surface and to investigate the deeper motivations and needs of the traveller. The “Voice of the Traveller” Ówill be able to emerge and brought to the attention of the decision makers at the top of any organisation. Listening to the “Voice of the Traveller” is the starting point for designing a Travel Policy that better serves the business objectives and that people will follow as it addresses the traveller’s pain and problems.
Project Management & Change Management
These are two general skills that have grown in importance along with the complexity of Business Travel related projects. The ability to initiate and manage projects involving many departments and affecting several stakeholders and to implement them having in mind how the individuals are affected and then setting the most appropriate change framework are essential for good results
The ability to speak the language of numbers is key to ensure that the decisions are made in the soundest possible way. Understanding what is important and how success is measured in financial terms is another building block of the modern Travel Manager
This is another new skill dictated by the unprecedented growth of information available. The ability to read through the mass of information, to create connections to get a full picture of the whereabouts of the travel programme is getting more and more important to ensure the programme achieve its results. The ability to leverage on such knowledge will open the route towards a successful Travel Programme. The next frontier? On-trip data!
Market knowledge, Negotiation skills and Procurement expertise
These belong to the more traditional range of skills a Travel (& Mobility) Manager needs to have, but they’re relevant ones to ensure the basics of the programme are right and in line with the best practises of the industry
All organisations, independently of their size and industry should have a travel manager.Certainly with smaller size programmes, the role cannot be a full time one and the same person will have more than one role. But for the good of the programme, it’s vital that this pivotal role, the catalyst of the travel programme is planned and recognised as a key contributor to the company results.
From an organisational point of view, it’s important to choose the right position in the organisation depending on the objectives the organisation itself wants to achieve with its Travel Programme. In fact, the right place for the Travel Manager will somehow affect the focus of her activity. A Travel Manager within HR will be likely more attentive on people’s satisfaction and engagement, a Travel Manager within Procurement will be likely more focused on sourcing and so on. There’s no such a thing as the “perfect” organizational structure: choose the Travel Manager’s position in the organization depending on the objectives, desired results and resources needed.
I hope that at this point it’s clear enough why a Travel (& Mobility) manager is needed.
Efficiency & Productivity
First of all, to ensure that the overall Travel Programme can deliver its results with efficiency and productivity. Confused and entangled processes, inadequate policies, inappropriate tools are not just a waste of time for all the people involved, but are also a source of frustration and in some situations can prevent people from actually performing the tasks they need to.
Business Travel is due to bring benefits to the business, but if it is not correctly structured it risks to become a burden. I often listen stories from travellers saying that should they have followed the policy, they would have arrived at their destination after their meeting/event was scheduled to happen. In this case, a strict and inadequate policy prevented a person to perform his/her duty!
Happy travellers/happy employees
A good Travel Programme designed around the needs of the Travellers to deliver the best possible Travellers’ Experience will have as a result happy travellers and happy travellers will make very happy employees.
I’d like to stress that ensuring a great traveller’s experience is more than adding extra-perks to the program. It starts with putting the Travel and her motivation at the centre of the Travel Programme. And it starts with acknowledging the differences, sometimes very relevant, across different groups of people driven by very different personal goals and desires.
Creating a travellers’ centric travel programme is not just giving more to everyone, but it’s achieved by giving what is meaningful and valuable for the travellers.
By doing so, you’ll create a Travel Programme people can and want to follow, and thus increase the overall effectiveness of the programme itself.
Further to that, the importance of a good travel program, as factor for attracting and retaining employees is growing along with the stronger presence of younger generations in the workforce. And considering how much travelling for work impacts the travellers’ personal life, having a travel programme which balances the needs of the travellers with those of the company will become a key asset for any organization pursuing the objective of improved employee engagement and aiming at an excellent employee experience.
Traveller’s centricity and Traveller’s experience and related Employee’s Experience will be the name of the game and you definitely need a Travel Manager to be sure all this can come true.
Cost control & savings
From the previous two elements stems directly the third: Cost control & savings.
Efficient and effective processes and tools coupled with a travellers’ centric approach are at the base of achieving the desired level of cost control.
It’ important that no resources are left on the table due to inefficient travel processes. And it’s key that the process is made as easy as possible to reduce waste. Money saved with correct set-up and maintenance of the Travel Programme can be diverted to other more valuable purposes.
On the other hand, when providing a Traveller centric Travel Programme, the organisation ensures that the Travellers will actually follow the policy and the processes and by doing so compliance to the programme will grow, visibility over costs will increase and the results in terms of cost control will easily follow. And we all know how, nowadays, cost control is more and more linked to virtuous behaviours of the traveller than to pure negotiation.
In the end you need a Travel Manager to ensure that your people and organisations work can dedicate themselves to their most important task: your core business.
And what do you think it’s the role of a Travel Manager? I’ll be happy to hear from you!
Want to know more?
This post belongs to the series Anatomy of a Travel Manager:
The Anatomy of a Travel Manager – Part 1
The Anatomy of a Travel Manager – Part 2