“Change is the only constant!”

As India strives to become the 3rd largest economy in the world, a notable shift is happening in the pace of digitization at companies. More and more companies are making digitization of internal processes a strategic mandate. One such process is business travel since digitization will help lower costs and streamlines operations. It’s a win-win situation for both employees and the company.

Factors Driving the Need for Digitization in the Business Travel Process

Most companies are sponsoring digitization for three main goals:

Improve bottom line

  • External environment with rising interest rates are putting margin pressure on every discretionary cost
  • CFO and Finance stakeholders believe that there is excessive and unaccounted spending on travel (and this is becoming harder to control)
  • CHRO org is worried about consistent deviations from the travel policy

Enhance employee experience

  • Hiring continues unabated, and most companies are becoming younger
  • The Gen Z hires often lament the existing process and/or tools
  • CHRO org is more aware of employee safety during travel and wants to empower Travel teams better

Eliminate process inefficiencies

  • Everyone is tired of manual, time-consuming, and error-prone execution by Travel Agents
  • There is greater recognition of cost and time losses from delayed approvals
  • Existing tools aren’t built for easy mobile usage, while new technologies are

Feeling peachy! Here is a gem from the Harvard Business Review –

“The brutal fact is that 70% of change initiatives fail in organizations.”

Harvard Business Review

Influencing Change in your Company

Don’t fret about the change in your travel process. Change management is natural and integral to your company’s success. Embracing change will help you thrive.

To join the 30% who achieve success with their change, you must have a clear plan for managing the change. Here are some recommendations to make your life easier –

Change Management Gospel # 1: Get your management team’s buy-in

Any change will generate negative feedback when you start, just as Newton’s Third Law taught us. It is important to set your Management team’s expectations properly and ensure they don’t expect change without pain. Pay particular attention to 5 stakeholders –

  • Your key department heads (do 1-1 demos with them for the new platform)
  • Your CHRO org: Rope the CHRO in, and take their help to get support from HR Business Partners (they can be your change champions)
  • Your CFO and Accounts Payable team: Work with the Accounts Payable team to pre-align on asks such as MIS format, Invoice format, and process to handle queries
  • Your Travel team: Often, the Travel team is driving the change, but even the Change Managers need convincing. Make sure that the Travel team knows why the change is happening and how they stand to benefit from it

Change Management Gospel # 2: Define SMART goals for the project
SMART goals mean goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Given the initial pushback Change Managers receive, it is easy to get de-motivated. Defining SMART goals will enable you to monitor implementation and identify if your change is on track.

Confused? Here is an example of a fallacy many companies make. Travel digitization often has ‘improve user experience’ as its # 1 goal. Such a goal is a trap since you will never make every user happy. Would 10% of dissatisfied users qualify as ‘not an improvement’?

Here is a suggestion on how this goal can be made SMART:

  • Adoption%: Measure how many users have migrated to the new platform/process for their bookings. Adoption % higher than 70% is a strong indicator of ease to use.
  • % Time Saved: Across 8-10 common journeys, measure the time taken from login to the completion of booking. 30%+ reduction in the time taken is another strong indicator of ease of use
  • Error Rate: Calculate % of bookings where a user made a mistake while using the software. An error rate of < 0.5% often indicates that the software is intuitive Net Promoter Score: Collect user feedback through surveys AND interviews. Aim for an NPS of > 30 (for the first three months after launch). Focus your interviews on how users find the overall experience, ease of use, and any problems they faced.

Change Management Gospel # 3: Generate Excitement and Nurture Change Champions

Create buzz across the company

Blitz your employees with interesting creatives that announce the launch. An effective recommendation is starting informational mailers ~1 month in advance in the 1-1-2-2 format (1 email per week for the first two weeks, and 2 emails for the final two weeks).

To engage future platform users, create an exciting communication plan. Build anticipation with countdowns to go live, highlight favorite OBT features, and share testimonials from internal champions. Use energetic slogans to generate enthusiasm.
Utilize various communication channels like Slack, Teams, and monthly email newsletters to reach everyone effectively. Remember, when it comes to significant change, it’s better to overcommunicate to ensure everyone is informed and excited.

Standees and launch helpdesk

Change management is always a herculean process. It is important to have a proactive approach to address any issues that might come up for employees. A good start is to set up checkpoints to quickly solve any queries they have and ensure they are provided with clear internal documents with FAQs to guide them. Tutorial videos make things even easier to understand.

Identify early adopters and use them to create a positive buzz

Rewards never go in vain. Start a weekly analysis of early adopters of the platform and acknowledge or reward them for their enthusiasm. This will motivate others in the organization to start accepting the new platform and not shy away from new things that they may find challenging.

Sustaining the Change

  • Mitigate adoption resistance: A change of this caliber doesn’t happen overnight. There will be resistance from several in the initial months of implementation. Focus on the SMART objectives previously mentioned, and work with your new vendors to strategize maximum adoption.
  • Keeping the comms in check: Your communications for the new solution should not stop after the launch. Instead, it is very important to keep a steady stream of messages, emails, and newsletters to keep the users informed of the progress, benefits, feature updates, etc.
  • Defining and tracking milestones: Keeping a log of milestones achieved with the solution is an important part of implementing change and keeping your stakeholders and users notified of progress.
  • Report progress to Stakeholders -Goals, target, and achievement.
  • Play recorded videos of change champions – Humans identify most with human stories

The future of business travel in India is brimming with promise, thanks to the adoption of self-booking tools and streamlined processes. Effectively managing this transformative change requires awareness, effective communication, and an understanding of the company’s unique culture. With new-age managers leading the way, businesses can look forward to a more efficient and cost-effective travel system that benefits both the company and its employees. Embracing change is no longer an option but a necessity for staying ahead in this rapidly evolving business landscape.