We know it's not pleasant but we agree it's absolutely necessary. If you work for a company where people travel for work, there must be someone in charge who monitors and approves travel expenses.
And we said it's not pleasant for two reasons. Firstly, because the process is tiresome and tedious. And, if you want to do it properly, checking out an expense claim to make sure everything is in order can be sheer torture. And, secondly, because it's not pleasant either to judge people or reprimand them when they've gone too far, for example with meals charged to the company.
It should all be a lot easier.
Below are a few tips that could be useful to improve how you organise and handle the creation and management of your company's travel expenses.
1. Create a clear expenses policy
To ensure your team can follow it, they must know what they have to abide by. The first thing is to create a clear expenses policy. Ideally, it would be simple and obvious enough so that everyone can follow it without having to constantly look things up. Another vitally important factor is to ensure it reaches all your employees and, sometimes, a simple email is not enough. How about putting it somewhere where everyone can see it? Perhaps you don't have a corporate intranet but sometimes GoogleDocs is enough.
2. Check thoroughly
If, in the end and due to a lack of time, the expense claims aren't duly checked, your team will notice. And they'll probably ease up on how closely they follow the expenses policy. We know it's tough but, why are rules created in the first place if the outcome isn't checked afterwards?
3. Confirm your suspicions
If you think something's not right, don't rush into things. Make checks and compare figures with other team members' expenses or with different periods for the same person. A false accusation is never pleasant and will damage your team's working atmosphere.
4. Give a vote of confidence
Obviously we don't live in a perfect world and, ultimately, you can't trust everyone. But, having said that, if you suspect someone is "trying it on", it's a good idea, before you continue approving their expenses, to sit down and talk to them. Give them the chance to explain any irregularities detected. It might simply be down to error, a badly typed receipt on the expense claim, because an original has been lost or whatever.
5. Use the right tools
This whole process can be made easier by using tools that provide a solid base for handling expenses incurred on business trips. Tools that can help you manage the process more systematically and effectively. Ultimately, many of the problems that arise are directly related to human error. If you make the process automatic, you gain in effectiveness but also eliminate errors. Killing two birds with one stone!
Have we left out any step? Do you have any other recommendations you think are important?