More than ever, in this unnerving era of Covid, employees want to be certain they are supported by their companies when travelling on their behalf.
Covid-19 now overlays the other risks of travel: accidents, natural disasters, as well as conflict, crime (including cyber and information ones), terrorism, and political and social instability.
It’s a daunting list of potential risk factors that requires travel risk management organisations to anticipate and assess the impact of events, develop mitigations, and communicate anticipated risk exposures to their employees.
“Advising and providing travelling employees with adequate medical, emergency response guidance, security, and information security precautions, has become essential,” says Federica Livelli, a business continuity and risk management consultant.
We’ve gone to the experts at Collinson, the global leader in the provision of traveller experiences, and International SOS, the world's leading health and security risk services firm, for the Six Commandments of Travel Risk Management (TRM). They are:
1. Organisations should take a holistic approach to risk
“Today, TRM programmes must take into account both pre-pandemic ‘normal’ travel-related risks, as well as the new risks and complexities that are unique to the pandemic era,” says Todd Handcock, president Asia Pacific Collinson.
“Pre-trip, travel managers should give employees a checklist of requirements for the journey, from risk assessment forms to tests and vaccination support.
“During the journey, companies should be actively monitoring the situation to ensure a swift response should anything go wrong; and post-trip, they should be giving employees access to tools that support their physical and mental wellbeing.
“We recommend detailed post-trip reports to get feedback on the effectiveness of assistance programmes, including transport and accommodation, which can help with future planning.”
2. TRM programmes should be specific to the needs of an organisation, and its staff
Handcock says the best TRM programmes aren’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.“While Covid-19 has changed the landscape for everyone in a variety of ways, it is critical to remember that this new landscape poses greater risks for those with pre-existing medical conditions, for instance.
“Organisations and travel managers can leverage third-party expertise to ensure that both the organisation and its individual staff have all the up-to-the-minute information and support they need.”
Todd Handcock, president Asia Pacific, Collinson.
3. Staff should feel protected and empowered
“Employees travelling for work should be able to do so confidently, knowing their company is behind them and providing full support,” says Handcock.
“This means enlisting employees in a robust travel risk management programme, using a third-party medical provider to evaluate their medical history while also ensuring their privacy, and using an approved tracking system to be able to know where employees will be at any given time, so that they can receive timely critical support in the event of an emergency.
“It is also important to note that the upcoming ISO 31030 Standard has put travel risk management firmly on the C-suite agenda – this is an international benchmark for TRM programmes, which helps to ensure that corporate Duty of Care requirements are being met.”
4. TRM programmes should be communicated clearly
Handcock says a pre-pandemic Collinson study found that while half of business travellers knew their employer had invested in some form of travel support programme, 51% of those weren’t sure what it involved.
“Of those who knew they had this support, only a fifth felt confident using those services in the event of something going wrong while abroad.
So, just having a programme in place is not enough; communication and training are required to ensure that staff understand the programmes well enough to use them when needed.”
5. Times of crisis call for clear roles and responsibilities
The global pandemic has exposed limitations in crisis management preparedness among many organisations all over the world, potentially putting employees and business resilience at risk. Major weaknesses identified by International SOS, include lack of clear roles and responsibilities in times of crises, delayed response time, and absence of clear de-escalation plans.
6. Learn from the disruption caused by the pandemic
James Wood, head of security solutions at International SOS, advises, “As we begin to move beyond the pandemic, organisations should learn from this disruption, and review existing crisis management guidance and modify their planned responses.
“This process should be supported by identifying trusted and reliable support services, accounted for at the initial planning stage and on hand to provide support at a moment’s notice.”