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by Kevin Iwamoto | May 30, 2017

Kevin IwamotoIf there’s one thing I know from my former days as a senior global procurement contracts and category manager, it’s just not easy to convince people to change their behavior. Chalk it up to plain old human nature and the age-old aversion to change management.

The reality is that educating travel, meetings and events managers and procurement folks to follow new, more efficient processes and adopt new technology takes careful planning and consistent, dedicated communication. Yet travel and meeting managers all too often fall under the spell of the myth of the “M” word. That is, if they’ve been able to win a mandate from a CEO or other senior executive (for, let’s say, a new travel or meetings policy), they think all will magically fall into place, and everyone will follow that mandate.

My experience is that, even with a mandate, 100 percent participation can be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, especially globally. It would be too simple to say that this is because business travelers or meeting attendees are intrinsically uncooperative employees. There could be a host of reasons for noncompliance; and if you are a travel, meetings or procurement manager, it’s worth your while to discover those factors in advance so that you’ll be ready to address the problems in a proactive vs. reactive manner.

For example, if you represent a global enterprise, advance consideration must address conflicts with laws or regulations that are in place in various countries and/or regions. In Germany, for example, nothing can move forward without approval of employee-representative bodies called workers’ councils, a feature in nearly all companies larger than 250 employees. Resistance also could be due to a simple case of a tug of war over authority; many times, a general manager or highest-level executive in a foreign operation has more influence over employees than a C-level executive back at headquarters in the U.S.

So how to get maximum buy-in from employees for new policies or processes? In my daily encounters with managers of indirect expenditures at corporations, I see that the most successful drivers of change construct change-management strategies and communications plans, including the following:

· Proactively surveying the landscape for points of pain
· Seeking out potential pushback areas
· Addressing managers and others who are likely to resist

Successful change-makers seek critical feedback and information from stakeholders and internal customers, and then they carefully craft project plans, timelines, milestones and deliverables. Making change happen also takes consistent communication targeted to all stakeholders (including suppliers) to ensure that they’re aware of both the benefits and the progress of the new project or process. In addition, a predesigned escalation process with key support management in place efficiently handles the “noise levels” in a manner consistent with the change-management plan in place.

Policy and guideline mandates also generate a lot of ill will in the employee ranks and automatically set up negative feedback and pushback for affected employees who don’t feel the policy mandates are fair or typically “don’t apply to me.” The reality is, there is no mandated policy that magically covers 100 percent of situations and employees, so a policy mandate is automatically set up for noncompliance due to exceptions. That means the policy owner(s) will have to start modifying mandated policies to address the exceptions. I’ve personally seen a policy expand several pages due to all the exceptions and new inclusionary language added post-launch of the mandate.

Although policies and guidelines are meant to address a majority of employees, it’s just not realistic to believe that your policy, especially a mandated one, will cover 100 percent of employees and their respective situations. Endeavor to stick to the 80/20 rule; in many cases, the actual gap-ratio number is closer to 90/10. Then just manage the exception percentage gap at 10 percent to 20 percent. It’s not only easier but less labor-intensive to manage compliance.

In these times of budget consciousness, when compliance reporting and results are more important than ever, you can empower your travel or meetings-management programs and processes with a well-rounded change-management strategy to accompany your policy, whether mandated or otherwise. Such strategies, and the resulting higher levels of compliance, surely will enhance not just the overall success of your newly deployed program and process, but your job security, too.

It’s time to take policy mandates off the table and set more realistic goals and targets for compliance tracking and management. Mandates might seem like nirvana for travel and meeting leaders, but not only are they unrealistic, they can cause additional complications and expectations that no category leader has time for nor should be measured against.

Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto. His book, Your Personal Brand: Your Power Tool to Build Career Integrity, is available from Amazon (including a Kindle version), as well as from CreateSpace.