Is your travel risk management agile enough?

If News 4/2014 Personnel. Taking the next step in travel risk management might seem impossible or needless, since you’re already performing with outstanding results when it comes to actualized accidents, catastrophes or similar events involving your personnel. This is what many major Nordic globally or locally operating companies have thought – at least before we’ve had a short discussion with them about their level and needs of improvement in travel risk management. Has their success so far been just pure luck?

​What needs to be recognized first of all is that there are always random factors in risk management, so absolute control of all risks is always impossible. This applies to travel risks as well as to anything else.

However, a good starting point for business travel is to build a risk management system that involves numerous safety and management tools, such as training of personnel, continuous country risk information available for travellers and 24/7 global emergency call centres.

The company always defines what its risk appetite is, that is, how much risk it is willing to carry without protecting itself against the risk with monetary, technical or other management tools. Our mission is to provide our clients with options for decision-making and improving the level of risk management.

Quick changes require quick reactions

When discussing with major companies about today’s operations abroad or operating with partners abroad – which include constant travelling outside from the Nordic region – one may see a single common factor in all of the discussions. Wherever one operates or travels, one needs be able to react to quick changes in the operating environment.

This translates into being agile, whether it means travel risk management or development of operations. Agility means taking a turn to another direction as soon as one notices something, even a weak signal, making an improvement to current operating or risk management practices and implementing the improvement as soon as possible to mitigate or eliminate the risk.

Individually agility

Individually agility means keeping one’s eyes and ears open constantly before and during travel. From an organizational perspective the conclusion has been that there should be online follow-up systems to track employees at any given time and assess the risk in all target countries and areas. Larger companies seem to have extensive travel reservation systems with high (over 90%) usage rates and online country-risk information available in their intranet and possibly even in mobile phones.

However, for an organization to be truly agile it needs to have clear definitions of who does what and in what situations, if risks materialize. Furthermore, agility means having fast relevant expertise available, whether it’s needed locally or internationally as well as training the organization to operate in small or large scale crisis.

When interviewing Nordic companies, two areas emerge that practically all companies need to work on: the travel risk organization itself and the feedback and development in their business travel risk management.

A good travel risk organization

A good travel risk organization means having all the relevant experts that deal with travel risk management, health, safety, security, travel management and risk management, working together in some agreed way with defined roles and responsibilities. Also, there should be safety and security responsible individuals in each significant operating county to ensure local coordination and up-to-date information. This is also relevant for agility.

The second most significant improvement area, feedback and development, translates into a systematically continuous collection of feedback, improvement suggestions, ‘weak signals’ and ‘stories’ from travellers to be utilized in continuous development loop-process, not just when some serious loss occurs. This continuous development should be governed by a cooperative group of different experts from various fields of travel risks.

Business Travel Risk Navigator

In Finland we have carried out many discussions about travel risk management via If’s Business Travel Risk Navigator. It is a compact question-answer tool that integrates relevant and current issues with our expertise into a clear structure. Even our most progressed travel risk management clients have received valuable insights to improve their processes and take the next step in travel risk management. Their guide is our travel risk management expert, who has familiarized himself with the company’s current state to be able to give the best possible advice.

As the world seems to crave faster and faster reactions or even predictions, it is worthwhile to take a few steps back and scan the current state of your business travel risk management. Make sure your success doesn’t depend on pure luck – use the knowledge and expertise we can provide you.

Vesa Lieho