Kathy Christianson, VP Travel Leaders Corporate

Getting a group of people to adopt new habits can be a challenge. As the title says: ‘What’s In It for Me?’ tends to be the first reaction to a request for a behavior change. When Travel Leaders Group is chosen as the preferred corporate travel agency for a new client, my role is to shepherd the changes in their travel program through to adoption. We start with the business objectives and then plan the steps needed to reach their business goals. Some transitions go better than others. Here’s what I’ve figured out when it comes to managing changes in a corporate travel program.

Decide on the Desired Outcome

In order to measure our success, we set metrics around adoption of the travel program: use of the online booking tool, bookings with preferred travel suppliers, cost savings and other travel policy compliance items. The march toward our shared goals is different with every client. Some totally understand the need to change up some routines and immediately begin to communicate to their employees, while others see the business need but are slow to move their workers along the path to change. As Travel Leaders Group, we want to quickly demonstrate the value of our partnership, so I always recommend setting up objectives and putting my change management plans into action right away. The more time an organization has to implement changes, the better the outcome.

Change Management

Our Change Management program encompasses employee engagement and adoption of organizational changes in how work will be done. We supply our clients with a simple introduction to the new process, and deploy our tried & true tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome. Our Change Management process helps identify and remove barriers to adoption, mitigates resistance and equips people with the knowledge and abilities to make the transition successfully.

Creative Communication

When we are training staff on a new set of workplace skills, we know that the message needs to be reinforced many times and in multiple methods. People have to hear messages an average of seven times for it to really stick. It helps to have the same message delivered from multiple communications vehicles like email, company intranet, hard paper copy, etc. We come up with individual solutions to reach employees in a way that fits within their culture. It’s never a single email. We can do any combination of a Town hall, a presentation in a Managers’ meeting, a newsletter, or a one-sheet for the company intranet.

We had a client in the healthcare industry that was spending about $6 million annually in business travel. We rolled out a new travel program to their major offices in Texas and Arkansas and a series of brick & mortar locations. We hung up posters announcing the dates of our travel program trainings, with our photos and those of the company stakeholders. We handed out a printed ‘boarding pass’ to attendees as they entered the training. It was an introduction to our session with names and contact information that could be tacked up in their cube as a cheat sheet for the future. When we signed our contract, they were at about 30% usage for online bookings but they wanted to get to 60% within 90 days. With our change management effort, we were at 85% adoption of the online booking tool within 30 days. We worked with the company’s sponsors to roll out the new travel program the right way and were thrilled that we exceeded their business outcome in half the time.

Push Adoption

Encourage your employees to support the new travel plan by offering attractive incentives. Many clients use a gamification strategy to hasten program adoption. One of our clients is a world-renowned university which offered its employees the chance to win two airline tickets every month for the first six months of our partnership. This underscores the importance of consolidating the organization’s purchasing power to get lower rates and added benefits from their travel suppliers.

What else can you do to ensure the transition to a new managed travel program is a success? We’ve compiled seven steps that will help make your transition as smooth as possible.

Ready to speak with a corporate travel expert about how you can better manage your business travel? Get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation that can help lower costs and improve employee productivity.