Following the tragic 2015 Paris terror attacks, the Wall Street Journal published an article highlighting companies’ reassessments of travel security policies. One specific company impacted during the attacks was A.T. Kearney, a global management consultant with about 300 employees either working or traveling for business in the Paris area during the time. When they heard news of the attacks, the company immediately sent out a message to employees using their emergency notification system in an attempt to verify their location and status—but three days later, one employee still had not responded.
Managing Partner Johan Aurik checked the employee’s Facebook page and was relieved to find that the employee had just updated their picture with a French flag. Mr. Aurik learned a valuable lesson from the experience that we can all take away. Sending one message over one channel once just isn’t enough. Thankfully, in this case, the unresponsive employee ended up being alright. But waiting three days hoping to see some sign of life is not a situation any company wants to be in. Ensuring corporate travel safety requires comprehensive planning and a robust emergency communication system. Following these four tips will get your organization headed in the right direction.
Benefits of a Corporate Travel Security Plan
As business travel continues on an upward trend, with growth of around 6% through 2019, companies must start applying duty of care principles to corporate travel security. With more and more employees traveling overseas for business, companies need to equip their people with the necessary tools and resources to have a successful trip abroad.
In a study conducted by International SOS, of the 3.5 million international trips taken by employees, 25 percent were to high or extreme risk locations. Since there are many dangers that only present themselves while traveling away from a company’s main office (such as civil unrest, poor weather, lack of medical support, and cultural misunderstandings), businesses must do everything in their power to protect their employees while they are in riskier environments.
Long lines, delayed flights, and spotty internet are just a few of the many factors that lower employee productivity while traveling. Since most companies do not have private jets for all their business travel needs, airport waiting time is unavoidable. An overwhelming majority (95 percent) of business travelers in Latin America say the quality of their business travel experience impacts their business results at least somewhat. Your corporate travel security policy should take into account the factors that cause airport delays and give guidance on how to avoid them.
Travel disruptions are the #1 event affecting organization’s business continuity. Whether it is employees stranded in a foreign country for an extended period of time or employees being abroad during a terrorist attack, business travel can easily threaten business continuity. Enforce proper planning, communication, and backup measures to make sure your company can remain running smoothly.
Satisfaction when traveling for work is highly correlated with how satisfied an employee is with their job in general. In North America, 79 percent of business travelers say their business travel experience impacts their overall job satisfaction at least somewhat. In addition, a recent Global Business Travel Association study found that traveler experiences can impact corporate retention and turnover – both positively and negatively. Use an effective corporate travel security plan to ensure that you do not lose any valuable employees due to poor business travel experiences.
Tip 1: Develop Corporate Travel Safety Policy
The best way to ensure corporate travel security is by developing a comprehensive travel safety policy that outlines procedures, resources, and training. While creating a corporate travel safety policy, you must keep in mind your company’s duty of care to your employees. Create a detailed plan that will first and foremost prioritize the health and safety of your people—rather than business interests. When drafting this policy, keep in mind all your key stakeholders, especially those involved in travel risk management. Specific roles should be assigned to ensure accountability with the travel safety policy.
Some key features for the safety policy include:
- Responsibilities related to business travel and employee safety
- Risk assessments for all potential travel locations
- Pre-trip training and employee readiness checklist
- Emergency response plan and communication procedures
After creating a thorough corporate travel safety policy, continue to review and edit the document as needs evolve. The policy is a living document that must be updated regularly to ensure that employees have the most relevant, up-to-date information at all times.
Tip 2: Provide Corporate Travel Safety Training
The goal of corporate travel safety training is to adequately prepare employees to avoid, identify, and mitigate danger during corporate travel. By providing employees with the necessary knowledge to face potential threats, your company can feel more confident sending employees abroad.
Tailor to Employees’ Needs
Depending on the travel destination of the employee, tailor the training to meet their specific needs. For example, if an employee is traveling to a place with great political instability, train your employee on how to avoid riots and political protests. Similarly, if your employee is going to a hurricane-prone area, provide them with the proper communication tools and hurricane safety tips.
The risks may vary by individual traveler as well. For example, according to some sources, women can be disproportionately at risk in foreign locations due to varying societal standards. As an employer, you can provide all employees with resources on how to safely travel alone. Educating employees on cultural norms of their travel destination, whether that be proper attire or hand gestures, is crucial in helping prevent any misunderstandings or conflict.
Implications of Non-Compliance and Resources
During the training phase, ensure that your employees are aware of the implications of non-compliance to the corporate travel policy. By setting clear expectations of reply procedures on communication systems, employees are less likely to violate company policy, benefitting everyone involved. Likewise, make employees aware of the safety personnel accessible to them during their time abroad. Familiarize employees with the resources available to them and train them on how to use any emergency notification app, threat monitoring services, or other tools their company provides.
Tip 3: Identify Threats and Assess Risks
Major risks encountered during business travel include criminal threats, political instability, and weather-related risks. Although these risks will differ along time and location, they are a good starting point of threats to assess in foreign locations. Criminal threats involve pickpocketing, gang violence, and assault, among many others. Political instability can materialize in the form of protests, riots, and corrupt officials. And weather-related threats involve volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, earthquakes, and more.
In order to continuously keep your traveling employees safe, institute a dynamic threat identification and risk assessment process. This ongoing procedure should comprehensively evaluate any and all threats in the current vicinities of employees. Prior to an employee’s trip, they should be provided with all relevant threat information, risks, and recommendations—so they are fully prepared to tackle any challenges that arise.
Threat Monitoring Tools
However, only so much risk can be mitigated prior to an employee’s corporate travel trip. To protect your employees while they are abroad, use a threat monitoring tool such as AlertMedia’s to gather comprehensive threat data from around the globe. With a quality monitoring service, you should be able to:
- Understand a threat’s proximity to your people
- Get real-time updates on unfolding events
- Automatically notify your people of threats when they emerge
Threat information is useless unless it’s implemented in a way that can minimize risk for your employees in their affected areas. Utilize multiple communication channels (such as text, email, and voice) to ensure that you can provide them with the necessary information and updates. This will help prevent the situation that A.T. Kearney found itself in following the Paris terror attacks.
Tip 4: Equip Incident Management Team and Travelers
Along with employee training, security personnel should undergo incident management training, so everyone is aware of their role and responsibility. Prior to training, your company should make sure that designated employees are in charge of keeping employees safe during corporate travel. This way, everyone has a clear set of duties and responsibilities.
Given that 16% of travelers say their employer does not do enough to maintain communication channels, there should be a communication professional included in your incident management team. The dissemination of information is crucial during an emergency situation—especially when it occurs in an unfamiliar location. This person should be the primary administrator for your company’s mass communication system.
Your system should meet the following criteria:
- Intuitive interface: send out alerts with ease
- Two-way messaging: allow users to reply with status updates
- Wellness checks: quickly survey employees to see if they’re safe or need assistance
- Reduced Delivery Time: use pre-made templates for different emergency scenarios
- Centralized Information: create event pages to provide one source for all information
- Availability: access via mobile device—an incident can occur at any time
- Emergency Line: Give employees a number to call at any time for help
- Threat Intelligence: receive real-time information about local threats
While you would like to be available for your employees all the time, realistically, there will be times when you are unavailable.
Your travelers will often face situations that are “emergencies” to them, but only them. A stolen passport, missed flight, or sudden illness can affect even the most prepared traveler. You should offer your employees a way to call for help when everyone else is sleeping. Adopt a tool such as AlertMedia’s emergency hotline to provide your employees with 24 hour help if they need it. Trained professionals monitor the phones continuously so that they can be there for your employees in emergency situations when you cannot be.
Traveler Status and Location
One of the biggest challenges faced by incident management teams is locating travelers at any given time. During a crisis situation, not knowing where an employee is in a foreign country can lead to increased risk, stress, and work. In order to mitigate this uncertainty, you can equip all employees with tracking technology during corporate travel such as AlertMedia’s GPS-enabled employee communication software.
Final Thoughts About Corporate Travel Security
One of the best ways to constantly improve corporate travel security is by ensuring that employees feel free to bring up any and all travel concerns before or after a business trip. Only half of all female business travelers share their safety concerns with their managers, leaving a lot of room for danger. Employers must empower their people to ask for the resources and tools they need to stay safe abroad and fulfill their duty of care to their business travelers. Use the tips and tools mentioned above to increase the safety, productivity, and retention of your employees while maintaining successful business continuity.