Business travelers can end up spending a lot of time filling out expense reports after returning from a business trip. Employees with more experience traveling and more knowledgeable about a company’s travel policies may be able to complete this task quicker than those who travel less frequently. Concur’s new State of Business Travel report details how different types of travelers — from the savvy business traveler to the cautious planner — complete expense reports and how long they take to do so.
In 2015, business travelers using Concur’s travel and expense management software expensed $76 billion for business trips costs, according to the report. That’s a lot of dollars to detail in company expense reports. While most business travelers can complete expense reports in about 10 minutes, the more complex a company makes an expense report request, the more time it takes. Sixty percent of expense reports Concur users completed last year were simple, with an average of five line items, and took roughly eight minutes to complete. On the opposite end of the scale, 8% of expense reports had itemizations and asked for details such as meal attendees. These more detailed reports took an average of 55 minutes to complete, according to the report.
Striking a Balance
Robb Nielsen, vice president of global product experience at Concur, said while Concur tries to automate the expense report process as much as possible, there are still ways companies can make expense reporting easier for employees. It’s about striking a balance between gathering necessary details about an employee’s business trip while not taking too much time away from the employee’s workday to complete an expense report. Travel managers should think about how granular they want these reports to be and to decide if each detail they wish to ask an employee about a recent business trip is necessary.
The goal for companies should be to reduce the time an employee spends on an expense report so that worker can “put time back into creating value for their business,” Nielsen said.
“The business has a responsibility to try to control itself for how rigorous of an expense report system it wants to have,” he said.
Travel Policy Training: What’s the Right Way to do it?
Training of corporate travel policies, as well as using a system like Concur to complete a travel expense report, is also important. Timing of this training could be paramount, too. If a company decided to include corporate travel policy training with the general onboarding process of a new employee, the information could get lost with everything else the employee is trying to learn those first few days on the job, Nielsen said. The employee may well also forget travel policy information and how to fill out an expense report by the time they take a business trip for the company months or years down the line.
A possible scenario for travel policy training would be to wait to do it with an employee until right before their first business trip is planned, Nielsen said. The employee may be better able to remember the training and also better stick to corporate travel policies when booking travel or when filling out an expense report after the trip.
Additional Expense Report Trends
The Concur report pointed out that a number of employees fill out expense reports on the weekends, outside of normal business hours. Overall, 21% of Concur users chose to avoid the task during the normal workweek.
The time it takes an employee to fill out an expense report after a business trip can also vary depending on the type of traveler they are, the report said. For example, a “savvy traveler” who takes about 25 trips per year will fill out an expense report as soon as possible after returning from a trip. However, a younger employee who only takes five business trips a year may put off filing an expense report until the deadline. This employee may also not be aware of travel policy rules and find expensing difficult, the Concur report stated.
By creating these different personas in its new report, Nielsen said Concur was able to understand different travel behaviors that exist within a single organization. Companies can also use the information to update or change travel policies, perhaps making them more flexible or basing them on the type of employee taking a business trip and what their specific needs are.