As far as employees are concerned, the most desirable feature of any management process for travel expenses is clear: it needs to be fast.
At the end of the day, on many occasions, employees will have paid out of their own pocket for some of the expenses incurred on a business trip out of their own pocket and, if they are regular travellers, this adds up to an amount that is far from negligible. Of course, there are company cards but, firstly, not all employees have been issued one and, secondly, they have probably been forced to pay in cash on certain occasions.
At the end of the month, they diligently draft their expense report, but being reimbursed will probably take longer than they would like. The expense reports enter a workflow involving several different figures and, if everything is in order, it will end up be settled by somebody in the Finance Department.
The reasons for this stem from two points: firstly, even nowadays, the reporting and validation process is still based on manual tasks and paper; and secondly, often the workflows to manage the interactions between the figures involved in the process are excessively complex.
In order to make the process simpler, it is a good idea to review this workflow in order to detect bottlenecks and possible repetitions. All the people involved must have a clear idea of their role and the responsibilities that are required of them. Interactions often prove to be a problematic issue. Defining which tasks must be performed in order for the process to move on a step and on to the next person, it is important that these communication mechanisms be clearly stipulated.
If there is an option to overhaul the management flows in order to simplify them, it is advisable to do so. In corporate settings with a certain level of complexity, it is a good idea to integrate the current expense management process with other systems and workflows as much as possible. To achieve this, companies have to ensure that the expense management process is as digitized as it can be or, in other words, involving as little reliance on paper as possible.
Another good practice is to regulate the timings involved in the process, establishing periods for reporting expenses, but also for their revision and settlement. Setting time limits is a good way of showing that the company takes expense management and reimbursement seriously. A suitable place to set out these time limits would be in the expense policy.
Meanwhile, it is advisable to establish appropriate mechanisms for receiving feedback about the status of reimbursement claims. In order to both enhance employee motivation and strengthen the company’s expense policy, it is a good idea to inform the parties involved of any progress with respect to the approval or rejection of expense notes and the reasons behind this.