I’ll never forget my first business
trip. I worked for a NASA sub-contractor
at the time, and I was sent to
database that would be used to catalog the various pieces and parts of what
used to be the Space Shuttle Challenger.
People were finding miscellaneous parts of the orbiter that were washing
up on the beach and NASA wanted to record all of the pieces. It wasn’t exactly the “glorious exploration
of the heavens” that I’d hoped to be a part of when I hired on to the space
world. Nevertheless, it had to be
done. I traveled with a group of
software engineers and together, we figured out how to successfully accomplish
a business trip (yes, we built the database, too).
Software engineers rarely take business
trips. Fortunately for my manager,
software engineers rarely go crazy and expense all sort of expensive food and
parties, either. We did spend a large
amount of time experimenting and chatting about how to do things, though. Questions arose like, “How do I expense
this?” “Can I expense this?” “I hate my hotel, can I change it?” “Can I go to a movie?” “We’ve been working for 11 hours straight;
can we just go back to the hotel now?”
The answers we came up with weren’t very helpful. Answers like, “I don’t know… just do it and
figure it out later,” are not answers that most manager are comfortable with
when people are on business travel.
So, how do you train your employees to
travel? Here’s a list of topics to
consider. They come from questions I
hear travelers ask all the time:
How do I book
travel within the company’s guidelines?
How do I
choose a hotel?
In what cities
am I allowed to reserve a rental car?
Where can I
find the address to the client or to our remote office location?
Do I have keep
all of my receipts?
When/how do I
do my expense report?
What hours am
I expected to work?
Dumping the answers to these questions
into a bulky policy document isn’t a very practical idea. Few people want to read such a thing, and
even fewer actually do. Here are some
ideas you can use to help train new travelers as they get used to traveling and
to traveling under your corporate guidelines:
Assign a “trip
mentor” to assist with the booking and expense processes. Ensure the mentor is available with cell
phone and email throughout the duration of the new employee’s first trip.
Assign a “trip
mentor” who actually travels along with an employee on their first trip. This is an expensive venture, but a lot of
companies do it with great success.
Start a travel
blog or wiki for your group of travelers. Rookies and veteran travelers alike can post
and answer questions in an online forum type atmosphere.
post a series of 3-5 minute “How To” videos on your corporate website. Being able to watch someone click through an
online expense report, for example, is very helpful until you get used to doing
Remember, the last thing you want to do
is to send a new person out on a trip, ill prepared. It can be a costly and embarrassing situation.
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding
business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send an email! Your questions
will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the
Expert podcast show.