Rethinking Risk for the World of Business Travel
The Evolving Role of Managers in Crisis Management
While it’s easy to comprehend given the frequent sensational events making the news, the actual ‘risk landscape’ for business travel diverges considerably. Recent findings from an ABTA survey indicate that 59% of managers are primarily concerned about security and terrorism-related incidents when it comes to their business travellers.
The Burden on Travel and HR Managers
In organisations that lack in-house security or risk management teams, the responsibility for crisis management often falls onto the shoulders of travel and HR managers. They are increasingly looked to for guidance, information, and support regarding incidents. This affects not just the travellers but also other internal stakeholders within the organisation. This added layer of responsibility can understandably lead to stress and feelings of overwhelm for these managers.
Preparedness: A Concerning Statistic
According to the survey conducted by ABTA, there is a palpable sense of unease among managers when it comes to dealing with incidents. A significant 53% of them reported feeling ill-equipped to manage any issues involving their staff who are travelling for business purposes.
The COVID-19 Factor
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching implications on all aspects of life, including business travel. However, it’s crucial not to overlook the pre-existing risks that still accompany business travel. These risks range from security concerns to health and safety issues that were present long before the pandemic struck.
The Importance of Understanding Travel Risk
Given the complexities of the current landscape, it’s more important than ever for organisations to have a comprehensive understanding of the broader aspects of travel risk. This knowledge is essential for making informed strategic decisions going forward. A nuanced understanding and ‘mitigation’ of these risks will be invaluable for day-to-day risk management and during the relatively rare but impactful instances of major incidents.
By taking a holistic approach to understanding the risks involved in business travel, organisations can better prepare themselves and their employees for the challenges that lie ahead. This will not only reduce the level of stress and anxiety among managers but also contribute to the overall safety and well-being of all staff involved in business travel.
Grasping the Fundamentals of Risk in Business Travel
To gain a comprehensive understanding of risk, it’s crucial to revisit the basics and clarify the distinctions between commonly confused terms—specifically, assets, threats, vulnerabilities, and risk. What do these terms mean in their simplest form, and why are they significant?
Asset: This refers to people, property, or information.
- People: This category includes employees, customers, contractors, and anyone else under your duty of care.
- Property: This encompasses both tangible and intangible items that have a monetary value, ranging from physical premises to a company’s reputation.
- Information: This could be databases, software code, or any other company data. An asset is what you aim to safeguard.
Threat: This is anything capable of exploiting a vulnerability, either intentionally or unintentionally, and has the potential to obtain, damage, or destroy an asset. A threat is what you aim to defend against.
Vulnerability: These are the weaknesses or gaps that can be taken advantage of by threats. A vulnerability is a shortfall in your protective measures.
Risk: This is the potential for an asset to be lost or damaged as a result of a threat exploiting a vulnerability. In essence, Risk = Asset + Threat + Vulnerability.
By understanding these key terms, you can better navigate the complexities of risk in the realm of business travel.
Strategies for Risk Mitigation in Business Travel
It might seem straightforward to mitigate risk by imposing stringent restrictions on business travel. However, this approach is not only impractical but could also have detrimental effects on the business.
Thankfully, a thorough understanding and evaluation of risk can help us manage it effectively, thereby reducing the chances of adverse impacts on either the organisation or the individual involved.
Assessing Risk: Key Considerations
To properly assess risk, it’s essential to identify:
- The probable threats or hazards that could occur.
- The vulnerabilities within our system or process.
Managing Risk: Effective Strategies
Once the assessment is complete, risk management involves:
- Implementing measures to circumvent the identified threats.
- Taking steps to minimise the existing vulnerabilities.
By adopting this structured approach to understanding, assessing, and managing risk, organisations can make more informed decisions that safeguard both their operations and their employees.
Evaluating Risk Factors
Identifying Likely Threats or Hazards
Threat types and levels can differ dramatically, even within specific countries or regions, and are subject to constant change. Acquiring ‘destination intelligence’ from a credible source is crucial for obtaining expert insights and analysis on potential threats.
Understanding Our Vulnerabilities
The Organisation: Each organisation has its unique set of vulnerabilities. These could be related to the nature of the business—what the organisation does and who it interacts with—or stem from its internal operating methods, policies, and behaviours.
The Individual: People are diverse, not just in terms of socio-demographic factors but also in their day-to-day behaviours. When removed from familiar environments, individuals’ behaviours can change in ways that may not be immediately obvious. Experienced travellers may become careless about risks, believing they are well-versed in handling them. This can lead to non-compliance with policies, unplanned side trips, or ‘rogue excursions.’ Additionally, the stress and fatigue commonly associated with business travel can exacerbate these vulnerabilities.
It’s crucial for organisations to understand that their operating methods can influence their vulnerability levels. Equally important is recognising how the behaviour of their employees can be just as, if not more, impactful. By taking a comprehensive approach to assessing these factors, organisations can better prepare for and mitigate risks.
Involving Stakeholders in Travel Risk Management
For a travel risk management programme to be truly effective, it necessitates the involvement of multiple stakeholders across the organisation. While each stakeholder may have different priorities, they all contribute to the overarching goal of managing travel-related risks.
Key Stakeholder Responsibilities
- Global Mobility Managers: These individuals focus on long-term overseas assignments and expatriate placements.
- Human Resources: HR is tasked with the general well-being and welfare of all staff, irrespective of their location.
- Insurance: This department procures the necessary policies to mitigate specific business risks.
- Legal and Compliance: This area oversees the organisation’s obligations to adhere to various requirements, such as duty of care, cross-border immigration, visa and work permit issues, and GDPR compliance.
- Risk and/or Security: This department handles a range of areas, from personnel security to corporate and cyber risks.
- Business Continuity/Facilities Management: This team is responsible for the physical locations to which employees may travel.
Beyond the Obvious Stakeholders
The scope of involvement extends further to include departments like PR and Communications, Finance, and IT. Each has a role to play in the comprehensive management of travel risks.
Given the varying sizes and structures of organisations, not all may have dedicated departments for each of these areas. Nonetheless, the responsibility for each aspect will lie somewhere within the organisation. Therefore, identifying and engaging the relevant stakeholders as early as possible is crucial for the effective management of travel risks.
Evaluating Your Travel Risk Management Programme: Key Questions to Consider
A robust travel risk management programme extends well beyond merely preparing for potential incidents. To be genuinely effective, it must incorporate both proactive and reactive strategies and be integrated into a company-wide approach to risk management. The programme should engage a variety of internal and external stakeholders, all working towards the common goal of ensuring the safety of your staff and business.
To determine if your travel risk management programme is up to the mark, consider asking the following questions:
Key Assessment Questions
Policy and Procedure: Do we have well-defined policies and procedures related to travel (covering health, safety, and security) that are not only documented but also effectively communicated and followed by all involved?
Real-Time Information: Do we have access to reliable, real-time information on health, safety, and security that can inform travel decisions and be readily communicated to travellers before they set out?
Pre-Travel Training: Are all travellers given the necessary pre-travel training and briefings to empower them to make informed decisions?
High-Risk Area Control: Do we have a mechanism for regulating travel to regions that are considered higher-risk?
Incident Communication: In case of a safety, security, or health incident, do we have the means to locate and communicate with travellers to provide them with appropriate advice and support?
Emergency Response Plan: Do we have a comprehensive incident/crisis management plan for emergencies, and is this plan regularly tested?
Stakeholder Confidence: Do we have full confidence in all parties involved in our travel management chain, both internal and external?
Time for Review: If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above questions, it may be time to re-evaluate your travel risk management programme and New World Norm can support you with this
By systematically addressing these questions, you can identify gaps in your current programme and take steps to enhance its effectiveness.