If you want to learn about managing the safety and security of your corporate travelers then you will need to read this report.
Specifically we’ll discuss preparation, analysis, management, monitoring and response as it relates to an active and successful travel risk management program.
After reading this article, you should know how to prevent or predict approximately 90% to travel risks and act immediately to improve your own program.
Implementing a successful travel risk management strategy can be one of the easiest corporate actions but the most difficult to get moving.
Too much time is wasted focusing on the wrong areas for assessment and implementation, that results in minor coverage for the major areas of concern.
Here we will simplify the process for immediate action or comparison.
Preparation is the primary and key step for all programs, whether mature or developing. Any-and-all information that is collected, especially data, should be consolidated to ensure consistency and accuracy.
Overcoming a “silo” mentally within the organization is also paramount to consolidating.
Intent, progress and resolutions must be communicated to all stakeholders in the most effective medium possible.
Managers should not limit themselves to the more traditional mediums but also include popular social media offerings.
Key messages or content must be trackable or at least acknowledged to ensure potentially life saving information isn’t lost in the vast corporate email inbox or mislabeled as spam.
Each major milestone and change needs to be documented, rated and followed channeled into the communication plan.
Time spent on effective preparation is rarely wasted and will pay dividends, throughout the course of the program’s lifecycle.
A relatively small consulting firm, who understood that they had a significant investment in their consulting staff, was able to develop and implement an effective, world class travel risk management strategy in a matter of weeks.
Through a well-structured phase of preparation and mapping they were able to resolve an issue that had consistently been pushed back because they had always assumed the task was insurmountable.
Analysis of all key components associated with corporate travel must be conducted.
The first and most pivotal is the travelers themselves.
A profile and rating of each traveler needs to be developed.
Questions around health, experience, knowledge, function and even preparation are basic requirements for each travelers threat profile.
With this information managers will be better positioned to make accurate assessments on the overall risk of any journey.
The location visited is the second element.
The threats vary greatly from location to location and generalized ratings are useless if based on such known vulnerabilities.
Trips to a key, developed city warrant different planning considerations than that of a remote location in a developing economic country.
Different cities within the same country may have vastly differing threat concerns too.
Next is the activity to be undertaken by the traveler.
A conference, factory tour, expedition or client meeting all have differing threats and planning considerations and are not adequately address by a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Additionally, the level of support afforded the traveler is considered.
This is not only those organic support options such as internal support and providers but that of emergency services, infrastructure and so on.
The time it takes for an ambulance to respond can turn a “routine” incident into a potentially fatal encounter.
The assessment and access to support should be inclusive of routine and emergency situations.
Lastly, all the known or prevailing threats need to be assessed.
You can never know everything but an overall list and impact/potential outcomes assessment needs to be conducted to complete the process if consistent and measurable results are to be expected.
Many threat factors may be seasonal or vary over the course of the month or traveler’s journey.
Due to changing economic challenges, a mid-sized company was pressured to seek new business in developing countries and emerging markets.
Until this point they had always been reluctant to venture into such markets due largely to their perception of risk.
Following structured and less superficial analysis they were able to fully appreciate the actual threats and separate the more emotive elements.
Following consultation with managers and travelers, they successfully expanded their market and sought new business with less competition as their competitors continue to lack the understanding and preparation to successfully pursue potentially lucrative opportunities.
The greatest threat to preparation and analysis is an unsupervised or unmanaged program once the traveler commences travel.
Ownership must be displayed and active management of travelers from a door of departure until a door of return is required.
This must be conducted with frequency of effort and communications to ensure the traveler feels supported and management is across the potential for change and intervention.
This phase is a marathon and not a sprint.
The management of successful programs requires consistency in conjunction with frequency.
Relatively standardized approaches need to be applied to like situations/circumstances for the purpose of efficiency, productivity, safety and cost control.
Demonstrable support is required both within the management group but to all identified stakeholders such as travel management, security, the traveler, families, etc.
A company with tens of thousands of traveling personnel successfully manages the risks and demands of travel with only a handful of people.
Their system and support mechanism is adaptive enough to support individual requirements but automated enough to ensure efficiency by keeping headcount at optimal and minimal levels while leveraging technology.
Their overall strategy is not managed by one department but all departments and stakeholders work in collective unison at each and every stage from departure up to return of the traveler to the office or their place of residence.
Monitoring represents the Achilles’ heel for the majority of travel risk management programs.
Ongoing monitoring of events and activities is required, whether this is carried out by the traveler or higher support function such as HR or security.
Tactical events (those that occur within proximity of the traveler/travelers route) should be scrutinized on a regular basis.
These events are the ones most likely to cause disruption or harm and should constitute the priority of effort.
Wider events or more strategic developments also need to be monitored for change that will impact the traveler or group of travelers.
Tactical events include demonstrations, storms, violence and the like while strategic events include visa changes, political unrest, health crisis and so on.
The actual journey taken by the traveler should be regularly reviewed or automated to report and respond disruption events and threats.
Finally, the individual needs to be monitored outside of the usual performance and reporting requirement to ensure their health and well-being is preserved or unchanged.
Numerous companies have averted crisis and maintained productivity by monitoring developing events.
Changes in weather, strikes, airline delays and even public holidays can occur at short notice and outside of standard policy doctrine.
By keeping “a finger on the pulse” with active monitoring these companies maximize their travel spending and ensure their travelers are highly productive and efficient.
Less vigilant companies who leave the process to static policy and dated knowledge are forced to spend more or suffer unnecessary delays.
Bad things happen to good people all the time.
No plan is complete without a response capacity in support of the affected traveler.
The plan and steps must be painstakingly simple and clear so as to be remembered under the worst of situations.
The plan must be adaptive and simple in implementation so that it can build in complexity and content after the initial activation or call for assistance.
The plan may be infrequently called upon but it should have consistency in application and capability.
All locations, activity, individuals and threats need to be considered and inclusive of the response plan.
Above all, the plan needs to be timely in its application.
A distressed, affected traveler or manager must get the support and collaboration required in the shortest possible time frame.
While the planning and preparation may be measured in days, weeks or months the response should be valued in minutes and hours dependent on the need.
Most companies acknowledge this is not their core competency and therefore part or all of this function is outsourced for maximum return and results.
A “seasoned traveler” from an acclaimed academic institution became unwell while traveling for work purposes.
Despite years of experience and seniority at the institution they had in fact very little knowledge or experience when it came to emergencies or supporting medical services in the location they were when they became ill.
As a result of poor choices, lack of knowledge, no support, limited integration coupled by a litany of local challenges the individual nearly died.
It was only through the swift and successful actions of a concerned spouse, engaging a far more organized process with predictable results, did the individual receive the care and support required to save their life and begin the long recovery process.
Conversely, one company experienced several similar incidents in a single month, however not once were their travelers placed at such grave risk, suffered uncontrolled costs or outright loss of productivity for long periods.
This was all due to a successful and scalable response capacity if and when required.
The Main Travel Safety and Security Threats-Locations and Events
The majority of incidents negatively affecting travelers occur at airports, on the road, accommodation, office/business location, social/leisure locations or result of dynamic change.
Airports must be included in any action plans or support strategies as it is first/last leg of all journeys and likely to present delays and disruptions ranging from flight delays to targeting by petty criminals.
Accommodation of all kind must be evaluation and included in timely response and advice communications.
Road moves remain the most prevalent and greatest for deadly consequences. Motor vehicle accident rates vary wildly from country to country.
Locations of business activity within the journey plan represent the smallest of impact locations but demand inclusion.
Social and Leisure Activities
Often forgotten with tragic results are social or leisure locations.
This element is likely to be largely unscripted but has a high rate of incidents and events that negatively impact upon the traveler.
The one constant with travel is change.
Elections, violent crimes, attacks an other major news events create change and potential for concern, whether affected directly or not.
Planners and managers need to include this dynamic in the constant monitoring, response and communication plans.
Most agree that travel is inherently risky or laced with threats but far less actually do something about travel risk management as they don’t know where to start or see the task too daunting.
As you can see, it is relatively straightforward to capture 90% of the problem and manage the risk in a few simple steps.
With a methodical and consistent process inclusive of preparation, analysis, management, monitoring and response you too can have a world-class travel risk management program.