In 1983, the president of a Texas telecommunications company shocked his sales force when he said, “Y’all aren’t submitting enough expenses. I want to see more airline tickets, more hotel bills, more mileage, and more entertainment.”
It was an unusual speech, but it was also an unusual time. The telecom industry was exploding and money was being made hand over fist. While this isn’t a statement one would likely hear from very many presidents or CEOs today, employee travel remains a critical part of selling and generating revenue for millions of companies around the world—critical and yet also costly. If employee T&E isn’t prudently managed, maverick expenses (and the unnecessary costs of processing those expenses) can cut deeply into any company’s bottom line.
As in most aspects of business, you have to measure it to manage it, and the good news is that expenses come in nice, easy-to-measure units: dollars and cents. The challenge is that how those dollars and cents are spent can be extremely challenging to monitor and manage.
Here are 14 of our favorite tips to help you better control and manage T&E:
Define Policies and Set Expectations
It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies have not defined and publicized policies covering how much can be spent and where. When you draft your policy, be sure to include clear steps for expense reporting and reimbursement. Proactively let employees know what is expected, and what is and isn’t acceptable, and you’ll avoid misunderstandings.
If you want employees to submit expenses in a timely manner, make submissions easy. Submitting expenses online rather than via paper simplifies the entire process and saves time for everyone, especially if it can be initiated using mobile devices and ARP (automated receipt processing), which lets employees quickly add receipts to any report by automatically filling in the details.
Save the Trees!
While getting rid of paper expense reports, get rid of paper receipts as well. If receipts can be scanned, a capability included in your mobile app, the paper trail ends at the point of submission, simplifying both processing and record-keeping.
Approve From Anywhere
Simplify the approval of expense reports by allowing managers to review submitted expenses on computers or mobile devices, allowing closer scrutiny and faster processing.
Keep Up with the Trends
Aggregate individual spending information into corporate expense reporting. Submitting expense reports in electronic form lets you slice-and-dice all expense-related information to quickly identify trends, relate expenses to revenue, and spot problems as they emerge.
Make it Easy to Identify Violtations
Highlight unusual or out-of-range expenditures by allowing administrators to manage by exception. By identifying these expenses, reviewers can quickly spot and address potential policy violations.
Nip Problem Areas in the Bud
As appropriate, tweak policies to address identified problems by looking for recurring issues. For example, if expenses in a certain category such as meals, flights, or hotels frequently exceed policy limits, you may want to raise that category’s limits to prevent future difficulties, or take the opportunity to re-train employees on your company’s policies.
Analyze by Category
To eliminate unprofitable business activities, itemize expenses by product or cost center. Over time this kind of analysis may indicate that certain activities cost more than they are worth.
Predict the Future of Your Spend
Identify potential overspending by tracking the run rate of actual expenditures versus budgeted amounts. Early warning can prevent being blindsided by unanticipated expenditures.
Save with Favored Vendors
Negotiate terms with frequently used vendors such as airlines. Corporate rates will save you money and simplify decision-making for employees, and ongoing reporting may highlight opportunities to negotiate even better rates. Be sure that employees know and use your favored vendors, and enjoy the savings.
Automate Your System
Think streamlining the entire expense management process is a far off dream? With an automated travel and expense management system that eliminates key entry and paper handling it can be a reality today. When you automate T&E, you’ll watch your costs for expense reimbursement plummet.
Obey the Law
Check that your policies comply with all applicable state and federal laws, and then easily configure them to do so using an automated system. Your legal department will thank you.
Make Auditing Easier
Turn clumsy paper reports into easy-to-handle electronic data to significantly simplify and speed up audits while reducing auditing costs and improving accuracy. Set up a configurable approval workflow and you’ll make sure the right people see all the right details before reimbursement.
Keep Employees Compliant and Happy
Looking to improve policy compliance? You’ll do that and delight your employees with fast, easy expense reporting, submission, and reimbursement.
While you probably won’t find yourself encouraging employees to rack up and submit more expenses like the excitable telecom president of the 80’s, you can make the whole T&E process a lot more pleasant for your employees and significantly less expensive and time consuming for your organization.