Jeroen Hurkmans: Organise ownership for effective risk management

12 May 2015
Jeroen HurkmansVice President EMEA/ APACAdvito

Engagement with a travel risk management programme is a big concern; arrange stakeholders to drive the messages

More and more businesses are recognising the importance of travel risk management (TRM), but are they all making the most of it in their travel programmes?

There’s no easy answer to that question, but it is clear that many businesses are missing a key component: understanding and managing the many stakeholders involved.

Ownership challenges to effective TRM

Travel is risky. Anything could happen—from an airport mugging to a natural disaster—so you should be ready for anything. Of course, the first goal of TRM is traveller safety, but it doesn’t stop there. A traveller’s injury or illness could mean legal and financial consequences for your business. And mishandling a crisis could affect your reputation and employee confidence.

But TRM is a complex endeavour, which isn’t always fully understood or supported within the company.

In a study we conducted in 2014, travel managers noted several major challenges to TRM. The most common: lack of ownership of travel risk in the company. In fact, the chief concerns all revolved around ownership and organisation of the TRM programme.

These broad, high-level issues are easy to ignore. They don’t affect the day-to-day in any obvious way. After all, a traveller whose flight has been cancelled because of a natural disaster won’t care which stakeholders created the procedures designed to get them home safely. They won’t ask what the overall vision is for the TRM programme or wonder how different departments communicate with one another.

But you should. These questions do affect whether that traveller gets home safely, and it’s up to you to make sure they’re asked and answered before there’s ever a problem.

Identifying a challenge is the first step to overcoming it; so let’s take a closer look at the organisation and ownership of an effective TRM programme.

Who has a stake?

Perhaps the most important factor in setting up a TRM programme is involving the right people. To do that, you must understand the stakeholders.

Many people within the company have a stake in TRM: travel managers, HR, security, medical, legal, senior management, etc. And while travellers aren’t directly involved, you will need their buy-in for any programme you roll out.

You might also have external stakeholders, such as your travel management company or a travel security specialist. They can provide expertise, technology and services that will help get your travel risk policy off the ground quickly – so count them in.

Team credit Henrik5000-720 Connect up your internal and external stakeholders. ©iStock/Henrik5000

With so many potential players, it can be daunting to figure out who should be involved and how. But as a general rule, you need four types of stakeholder

  • The initiator—the person who has the idea to create the TRM programme
  • The senior sponsor—someone with the influence and desire to support the programme throughout the company
  • The risk bearer—the person with overall responsibility for risk The manager(s)—a team responsible for the programme, headed by one person

Keep these roles in mind as you determine who to invite to the table. They’ll ensure you have the support you need to create and maintain a TRM programme that works.

Who knows what?

After setting up the team, you have to make sure the right information is shared between the stakeholders.

The various departments may not typically interact, so it’s easy to become isolated. It may seem to HR that medical has nothing relevant to offer them. Or the travel manager may assume they have all the information they need and choose not to reach out to the others involved. But when information isn’t shared, you lose the advantage of bringing all these different groups together.

It’s impossible for any individual or department to know everything. The benefit of having multiple voices present is just that: more voices, expertise and experiences. Your programme simply becomes less effective when communication breaks down.

Who has control?

It’s not enough to gather a group of stakeholders together though.  Once more, ownership is key. Without a clear leader, everyone assumes someone else is managing the programme, and so nothing gets done.

Because of this, many companies—even those with TRM policies and procedures in place—lack an overarching TRM strategy. And all the policies in the world won’t lead to effective TRM if there’s no high-level vision to tie it all together.

Creating an overall strategy takes time and thoughtful discussion, but it’s necessary for creating effective policies. Discuss with your stakeholders what the ultimate goals are for the programme and how you prioritise them. For example, do you value savings and cost control over environmental and social impact? Or vice versa?

Clearly defined goals will affect all TRM policies and procedures, so make sure you give those goals the focus they deserve.

Who cares?

Earlier, I mentioned you need a senior sponsor. There are many reasons for this. Senior managers frequently focus on TRM only when a crisis occurs. Some of them understand the need for TRM with obviously high-risk trips (such as to destinations with high security concerns). However, many don’t understand the need for TRM programmes outside extreme cases.

So how do you create buy-in among top executives? Explain the potential risks and liabilities the company faces if TRM is mishandled (or not handled at all). Show the necessity and benefits of a comprehensive TRM programme.

Once you share why they should care, they will. And that support will be invaluable, not just in creating a TRM programme but in sustaining it.

Don’t wait.

It’s easy to neglect TRM. After all, major crises won’t affect the majority of trips. It seems to make more sense to focus your time and energy on the day-to-day rather than the what-ifs.

But if you wait until a crisis happens to address TRM, it’s already too late. And if you ignore the overarching goals and priorities of your TRM programme, you won’t have the most effective policies in place when a crisis does happen.

Focusing on the stakeholders, organisation and strategy of your TRM program lets you protect your travellers and your company from the many risks of travel. Why not get started now?

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