Time to Reboot Travel Safety ready for 2021 and a Fortune 500 snapshot view

During a call with a former colleague, who is now the security director of a large multinational, the subject progressed to the current state of business travel and its recovery when he stated that he expected travel to recover by mid-2021, before chuckling and adding that with the hundreds of millions of dollars being saved on their travel budget, his company wasn’t keen to rush back to travel as ‘normal’. Despite the importance of travel to their profitability and their usual, significant travel budget, he finds it embarrassing that they don’t provide travel safety training to all their travelers.

The fundamental purpose of any travel safety training is about preparing the traveler for the risks they might face when on the road and, as we move through and come out the other side of this period of uncertainty, anyone traveling for business is likely to face more risks and need to be more prepared than ever before. Travel safety training can be so much more than just risk training if it reinforces their employer’s travel risk management (TRM) policies and procedures; what support and information is available to help them plan and, importantly, what assistance is available to them when on the road and how can they access that help.

In many countries this training is not just a “nice to have”. The often-bandied term ‘duty of care’ has its roots in health and safety at work acts, that stipulate:

–  identifiable risks in the course of work should be risk assessed,

  policies written about them; and,

  information or (mitigation) training provided.

This final point is usually caveated by the phrase “in a reasonably practicable way”, which is important when it comes to day to day travel risk. If you have thousands of travelers, providing a half day face to face briefing isn’t “practicable”, or, for many, necessary; conversely, receiving an automated email with destination information and highlighting some risks, which may or may not be read, falls short of “reasonable”.

Additionally, there is also a new ISO being developed (ISO 31030: Risk management — Managing travel risks — Guidance for organizations) that will detail the measures an organization should have in place to support travelers, including travel risk training.

Travel Safety Elearning

Elearning provides a powerful tool that is both reasonable and practicable. A short foundation travel safety course, that covers the most common risks that a traveler may face and how to mitigate against them, is easy to deploy (most organizations already have the infrastructure to host elearning courses) . It can introduce the learner to the safety framework that is there to help them plan, support their personal risks assessments and give them up to date information on who to call if there is an emergency or incident on the ground. A quiz can be added as a knowledge check and records maintained if an audit is required.

When looking for courses, ideally you want a course that can be customized to reflect your TRM program. Why generically say “call your emergency line”, when you can reinforce your company procedures by saying “call the GSOC on +1-XXX-XXX-XXXX”? If your hotels have been vetted in the most common locations you travel to, state this; if an employee’s personal risk assessment throws up any queries, let them know they can speak to the security department and how to contact you.

A foundation course shouldn’t necessarily be a one-size fits all package; if most of your travelers are unlikely to go to a destination where kidnap is common, this topic probably shouldn’t be in the course (but rather covered separately for those travelers who need it). It should, however, cover institutionally identified risks. An example is a mining infrastructure company whose employees travel the world to remote locations – wellbeing in the air as well as ground transportation standards are of high importance to them. Another example, a wildlife NGO, sends travelers to remote wildernesses and for them natural disasters is important to include.

Once the content is decided, consider the look and feel of the course. Making it look and feel like an internal communication can help reinforce your brand (the security department as well as the organization) whilst giving the lessons, behaviors and information you are conveying to the learner extra gravitas. A not insignificant consideration is that if the course introduces yet another brand to your TRM program, might this confuse the traveler in an emergency?

The costs do not have to be huge, especially if you purchase an off-the-shelf, customizable solution. A specialist company will have a library of modules to meet your requirements, their content will have been tried and tested by their other clients and they can make the course look like your own bespoke offering. Importantly they should be able to provide maintenance at renewal time, so your content is kept fresh and up to date with any changing risks. Creating your own solution from scratch can be incredibly resource intensive in terms of people, time and money, especially the latter if you want it to be media rich.

The Time is Right

As we continue through this low travel period it is an excellent time to appraise your TRM program and the travel safety training you offer your employees. Before travel starts again in earnest, a short, engaging elearning course can remind your travelers how to plan wisely using the systems, tools and processes you have put in place to support them, and, importantly, provide a timely reminder after a year at home of what day to day travel risks they might face and how to mitigate them. Many risk consultancies are predicting that petty crime, and possibly bribery, will be significantly higher in the post-pandemic world; are you sure you have done what you can to prepare your travelers for this increased risk?

It is unfair to compare lean security budgets to the seemingly vast travel budgets in many organizations, however I asked my former colleague whether he thought that it might be easier to make the budgetary case for travel safety training before travel starts again in earnest. His view was that when the pandemic starts coming under control and the C-suite pushes for their sales people to hit the road again, they will back the measures and budgets to make this possible; not just related to COVID safety, but he was also optimistic that the business case and budget request for travel risk training would finally be heard and approved.

3rd December 2020