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Repeat expense policy violators - malice or ignorance? Here’s how you deal with them

Oct 25, 2018 6:38:00 PM

Accounting folks often have to take the uncomfortable step of talking to employees who do not submit their expenses or expense reports on time, or ever at all. Or worse, employees who consistently violate policies - like Alice from sales who submits her receipts and expense reports only once a quarter, after raking in thousands of dollars in receipts from dozens of sales trips. Even this probably happens only after you drop Alice and her manager multiple reminders and emails.

People want to get work done - not spend time doing admin work

The biggest user group incurring expenses regularly in most companies is the sales team. These are the people who are in the front line, bringing in the revenue. They are also the people who have the most pressure in any organization - the pressure of meeting monthly quotas. Their day is mostly filled with meeting customers and making calls between meetings. So reporting expenses and filing expense reports would probably be the least of their concerns. Not surprisingly, this is also the group that delays or doesn’t bother to report their expenses.

So how do we make it simple enough for teams like sales to report expenses without them having to spend considerable time and energy to do it? Introducing a new process and expecting an immediate behavioral change from employees is a sure recipe for disaster. Rather than that, incorporating the new process within the existing process or employee behavior would help them ease into the new changes. In this case, the inbox which every knowledge worker in the world lives in, day in and day out.

No one remembers policies

Do your end users know your organization’s per diem rates for overseas travel? Does Alice from sales know under what circumstances she is allowed to fly business class? Does Patrick from business development know if your organization reimburses for alcohol? If they said yes to even one of the above three questions, they are the exception rather than the norm. They probably know the answer because of oral wisdom passed on from your peers or managers.

The harsh truth is no employee remembers expense policies, not even frequent flyers. Your teammates from accounts were the ones who drafted the policies in the first place are not exempt either. Even after they submit their expense reports, they might still not have a clue about how much they spent outside of policy. There cases of multiple back and forth emails between employees, accounts, and the approval manager are a testament to this.

According to a Paystream report commissioned by Fyle, 29% of organizations surveyed said the inability to enforce corporate travel policies was a major travel and expense pain point.

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How do we ensure every employee who is a potential traveller knows each and every travel policy you have laid out? Unfortunately, you can’t. But what you can do is inform the employee at the time of submitting an expense if it falls outside of the company’s policies.

Protip: Do you know that with Fyle, you can now enforce alcohol based policies? Click here for a free trial.

Culture

It doesn’t take much time to send a strong email to employees who fail to submit receipts and expense reports. However, it is crucial for Accounts to align with the company culture. The culture of a company is usually restricted to business functions such as sales, marketing, product management, but is often overlooked for business support functions like accounting and finance. It is important to understand the company’s culture and act accordingly. This is where a set email template comes of use, rather than to every member of the accounts team employing different language to communicate the same expense reimbursement reminder message.

Communicate and educate

Just like any other internal tool or process rolled out to the company, the success or failure of your improved process depends on how well you sell/market it internally. Making use of your internal forum, internal newsletter and meeting with your heavy users helps with awareness. Do not shy away from taking feedback to make it even more employee friendly. If you are able to identify a small set of heavy users who could serve as early adopters of your new expense management tool or process, it is advisable to let them try the new process before rolling it out to the entire company.

Read our customer success story of how 3CX improved TAT and reduced repeat expense policy violations by implementing Fyle.

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