Imagine it’s late evening and an unexpected incident has occurred somewhere in the world. Does your company know where its traveling employees are? Could they determine within minutes who was impacted, safe or might need assistance?
In the year ahead, we expect employee safety and duty of care to remain a top business priority. Businesses will scrutinize their data, systems, processes and procedures to determine how they can improve their ability to ensure employee safety when the unfortunate occurs. Human resources will continue playing an important role in this.
In light of terrorist attacks and natural disasters in an increasingly global economy, business traveler safety is a growing concern. More and more companies are sending their employees out to do business worldwide, meaning employees are entering potentially unpredictable environments and need to be equipped with key safety information, and peace of mind that their employer will be there in the face of an emergency.
Duty of Care in Today’s Organizations
Duty of care responsibilities span multiple departments, including human resources, corporate travel, security and legal. This can mean a lot of gray area and potential confusion around who is ultimately responsible to fulfill this need. A recent report by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation found three in five travel managers rely on travelers to contact them during times of crisis and uncertainty, whereas 58 percent of travelers say they would contact their supervisor, not a travel manager, if in need of support or assistance in such a situation.
In addition to protocol issues, there’s a lack of education and awareness of the tools employees could be provided or how employees should react in the event of a safety incident. Only three in five (62 percent) travelers are given pre-travel information and even fewer (53 percent) are given information on local providers for medical and security assistance services before leaving the country.
Duty of care is a company’s obligation to ensure the safety and security of their employees. In addition to a moral component, it also has both legal and business components HR teams should be aware of:
- Liability and obligation: Most countries have local regulations requiring employers to provide a safe work environment. With international travel, these legal duty of care obligations aren’t always clear, but legal experts say this does not necessarily mean there are no legal obligations for the health and safety of business travelers abroad.
- Business risks: By having a meaningful, surefire plan in place, HR professionals are able to protect their greatest assets — their employees — in addition to the business at large. A poorly managed traveler emergency can also negatively impact a business’ competitive advantage, business continuity and financial health.
HR’s Role in the Year Ahead
HR professionals can help alleviate risks and take steps to help ensure the safety of employees:
- Develop a cohesive and comprehensive employee safety policy. HR professionals are increasingly responsible for workplace safety and security matters, including program and policy development. To create a comprehensive workplace safety policy, travel risk management must be a core part of it. HR and corporate travel teams should work closely to align travel and on-site safety risk programs and clearly communicate those policies to mitigate employee confusion.
- Educate employees on resources and procedures. A key role of HR is to deliver employees the appropriate education and resources to ensure a safe and thriving work environment. The effectiveness of workplace safety and security measures will depend on an organization’s ability to communicate these initiatives. By creating an ongoing employee engagement strategy complemented by resources and training, HR can partner with corporate travel to keep employees educated and up-to-date on travel risk management policies and protocols.
- Provide integrated technology solutions employees can access anywhere, anytime. Once employees are on the road, companies need the ability to locate and communicate with them immediately if an incident occurs. Every extra minute spent trying to get in touch could be putting them in greater risk. Organizations that use technology leveraging up-to-date business traveler data and 24/7 monitoring and communications services can rest easy knowing they can help guide employees to safety in the event of a crisis.
Mike Eberhard is the president of Concur, which provides travel, expense and invoice management solutions. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.