The Institute of Travel Management (ITM) has published a new ‘Future Role of the Travel Manager’ resource to help corporate travel buyers retain the elevated position, strategic importance and influence at c-suite level that they gained within their organisation over the last two years due to the business travel challenges of the pandemic. It also serves as a useful handbook for travel managers who felt their role was undervalued, or struggled to gain recognition for their department from senior management during Covid.
The resource aims to provide ITM’s buyer members with practical guidance on how to seize the current window of opportunity to re-enforce the value the travel function brings to an organisation, the diverse skillset of travel managers and their ability to support key business objectives. The content is also relevant for those buyers who have already embarked on this process.
It is the first outcome of ITM’s ‘Future Role of the Travel Manager’ taskforce, which was established in March this year, consisting of 13 buyer members from diverse industry sectors and differing travel team structures and remits. The taskforce has met regularly over the last five months to share best practice and define pro-active steps buyers need to take now in order to articulate their value, position themselves internally as experts and set out a clear vision for their travel programme in the long term. Sessions were moderated by Louise Kilgannon of corporate travel consultancy FESTIVE ROAD, who provided further independent insights.
The taskforce is urging travel managers to be take ownership and proactively secure a ‘seat at the table for travel’ within their organisation. They need to be bold and must not wait for stakeholders and travellers to reach out to them first. The ‘Future Role of the Travel Manager’ resource recommends a number of steps buyers can take to achieve this, include the following:
- Conduct a Start/Stop/Continue exercise as a starting point to understand the right fit for the travel programme internally within your organisation and externally with suppliers; ask questions such as: What do we keep? What needs to change? What are the new requirements and expectations to support the re-set and reposition the travel programme’s value?
- Create a ‘playbook’ for what travel means to your organisation and how it will look in the future; consider conducting a ‘listening tour’ of key stakeholders to see how travel has changed post-Covid and present findings back to the business
- Revisit travel manager and travel team role profiles; set out a ‘laundry list of everything the roles encompass, and the associated skills required.
- Prepare a value proposition and elevator pitch to use in planned meetings with critical stakeholders as well as at opportune moments
- Identify senior stakeholders within the organisation to target and demonstrate the value of the travel department; align with key departments who can become advocates for the travel function; seek opportunities to bring departments together to resolve conflict or showcase examples of supplier development.
- Align the travel function’s plans, priorities and purpose to the organisation’s business pillars and strategic imperatives
- Position the travel programme as purposeful and responsible to align with new traveller demographics values; educate the business on the balance between travel and the environment; provide guidance on supplier selection and ESG initiatives.
The ITM resource also includes easily digestible ‘top tips’ and appendices providing helpful examples of a travel manager role profile, a start/stop/continue exercise, stakeholder funnel, and a playbook or mission statement to support buyers with the recommended actions.
The ‘Future Role of The Travel Manager’ taskforce will still meet regularly over the coming months to continue their discussions on this topic, as well as identify ways to raise the profile of the profession in order to attract and retain talent. ITM will also introduce a series of workshops for travel managers sharing best practice for tackling some of the suggested exercises in the guide, such as building a playbook, stakeholder mapping and engagement.
“The pandemic gave travel managers a stronger voice within their organisation as they played a critical role in supporting accelerated business priorities and duty of care, and their travel departments became subject matter experts. For many buyers a seat became available at the c-suite table for the first time. However, for some buyers it was also a time when they, and their department, felt undervalued within their organisation and that they weren’t listened to by senior management,” explained Kerry Douglas, Head of Programme, ITM.
“As our latest ITM taskforce explored the conversation around the future role of the travel manager, it was clear that there is a small window of opportunity for buyers, regardless of their current perceived value within their business, to re-set and re-educate travellers, senior management, stakeholders and the wider industry on the value that the travel function and travel manager bring to any organisation. The Future Role of the Travel Manager resource is the first output from the taskforce and is designed to arm buyers with the practical guidance on steps they can take now to take control of their destiny,” said Douglas.