As much as your finance department dislikes scrutinizing expense reports, travelers may disdain filling them out even more.
In fact, about a quarter (24%) of travelers said they’d rather have a cavity filled than complete an expense report in a SAP Concur survey.
While it may sound over-the-top, the findings reaffirm how expense reports can be a headache for people on both sides of the process.
But there are steps CFOs and their staffers can take to make it easier on everyone. Check out three best practices to improve your expense report process, based on advice from an AppZen report:
1. Avoid extremes
AppZen details two extreme T&E cultures that it sees.
The “petty police” culture has excessive approval processes, flags every tiny mistake, and has lots of reprimanding that leads to annoyance, antipathy and mistrust. Not to mention, because of how exhaustive the process is, reimbursement takes way longer than it should.
Oppositely, the “c’est la vie” culture has so little oversight that employees do whatever they want – upgraded hotel rooms, the most expensive steak on the dinner menu. The best interest of the business falls by the wayside.
As a starting point for a good expense report process, it’s important to ensure your finance team isn’t falling into either of these extremes. You don’t want them to be too harsh or too careless.
2. Remove bottlenecks
Where does the expense report process often slow up?
Approving managers – the step between travelers and your finance staff – can be one of the biggest bottlenecks. You know these people weren’t hired for their expense report know-how and proficiency. In today’s age, CFOs should consider automated tools that can do the job instead.
Relieving people from the tedious task of approving expense reports has numerous benefits that can save your company time and money. For one, AI-powered tools can quickly scrutinize every expense report line and receipt without the worry of human error. You also avoid problems of the extreme cultures mentioned above, like overexertion of power or inattention that leads to fraud. And lastly, freed-up managers can focus more on critical tasks, increasing productivity.
Of course, if more automated approvals aren’t possible right now, you can still minimize the bottleneck by assuring those who currently approve expense reports have the adequate time, training and close eye to do the job efficiently.
3. Address problems by group
No matter what, there are going to be employees who mess up expense reports or exceed spend limits. But it can be ineffective to spend hours having individual conversations with specific employees or, oppositely, addressing the entire company.
Instead, meet in the middle: Having your team identify and tackle issues with specific groups could be more effective. They can highlight specific problems (e.g., Marketing frequently surpasses limits for client gifts) without singling people out or involving too many extraneous people.