Last November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and January's emergency Hudson River landing of a passenger aircraft each triggered questions in corporate offices about employee safety. Were any of their employees affected and, if so, how many?
Some companies have solid policies in place to address such incidents. For others, these events underscored the need to better identify and manage the risks associated with corporate travel.
Terrorist attacks, kidnappings, natural disasters and mechanical failures are extreme examples of emergency situations to which corporate travelers might be exposed. Yet there also are other, often less dramatic forms of travel risk that can cause harm to the employee and the business. These include the loss of data if a traveler's laptop is stolen, the financial loss caused by abuse of travel expenses or the damage to reputation stemming from a lawsuit for breaching a company's duty of care.
Business travel is inherently risky because it occasionally places employees in unfamiliar or disadvantageous environments. Travelers often stand out from the local population and might have to deal with unfamiliar customs. Their alertness might be reduced by jet lag or travel fatigue. Travel risk management should focus not only on these potential perils of international travel but consider the total trip, including domestic components such as transportation to and from the airport.
With complexities and risks increasing for business travelers, companies need to establish a strategic travel risk management program to handle incidents responsibly and effectively.
Effective travel risk management varies by organization, but everyone should keep in mind the following.
Seek cross-functional involvement. Travel risk affects many different departments, including travel, security, human resources and legal. Coordinating input from these groups is crucial to getting a risk management program off the ground. Before hiring external resources to help manage travel risk, do your homework. Look internally first to mobilize resources and outline what the organization's risk management could look like. Only then look to outside resources to fill any gaps.
Identify roles, responsibilities and processes. When an incident occurs, the internal and external members of the travel risk management team need to know who is doing what, communicate consistently to manage the situation effectively and keep unnecessary "noise" down.
Establish traveler support. Think about ways to educate your travelers prior to and during the trip about emergency contacts, medical facilities, local customs and health risks, as well as threat levels for specific areas.
Use traveler-tracking tools. These services identify who is traveling and where, and can be provided by security experts and travel management companies. To use such services effectively, you must enforce the company's designated booking channels so that critical trip information is captured.
Encourage travelers to prepare for each trip. They should be familiar with the company's travel risk policy and understand the risks involved before starting the journey. Those traveling to high-risk areas could be required to obtain clearance from a senior executive, acknowledging that the trip purpose justifies the risk involved. Also, at least one other person should have details of their whereabouts.
For more details, consult "C'est la Vie?," a risk management white paper that includes a six-step process and case studies, available for free download at advito.com.