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New Nokia Global Travel Policy Balances Work, Life, Savings

Nokia in June rolled out a new global travel policy focused on striking the proper employee work/life balance while also significantly paring travel spending.

Through the first nine months of 2009, Nokia cut its overall travel expenditures in half year over year to €100 million. Yet, the Finnish mobile telecommunications and device maker plans to take its behavioral change and savings initiatives even further.

In the past several weeks, the Nokia travel team launched an internal business consulting process to take a "deep dive" into cost center, department and individual travel purchasing behaviors, said global sourcing director for travel Paul Perry.

The travel management team of six, which uses TRX's TravelTrax data management platform globally, has built a methodology, templates and consistent strategies to act as consultants to cost center managers and controllers. The team studies units' travel habits and spending, identifies changes and tracks and measures cost savings and avoidance.

"It's a little different for a sourcing group," according to Perry. "It's not traditional sourcing at all. It's more consumption management than spend management. We feel like the time is right. The atmosphere in the company and in the economy is driving this, and we would be remiss in our duties if we didn't take advantage of the situation and make this contribution."

The Nokia travel team is piloting the initiative with four internal organizations, including the 300-employee global indirect sourcing group to which it belongs.

In 2010, the company will give business units and other members of the global strategic souring team travel consulting process templates and tools, buoyed by a multimedia marketing campaign, to initiate companywide strategies to change travel behavior that fit best with each department's goals.

"They can take that money out of their travel spend and do something else with it," according to Perry. "If you are in marketing, you can do another campaign. If you are in indirect sourcing, you can look at some additional training or an additional tool that you wouldn't have implemented otherwise because you didn't have the budget."

The consulting project is the third step in Nokia's business travel change management process, which began in mid-2008. After analyzing the company's travel program, senior management opted against banning travel or issuing directives to reduce trips, which the managers saw as merely a short-term fix.

Instead, Nokia built a program that would fundamentally change the way business travel was viewed internally and would bring a positive long-term impact to Nokia's bottom line.

In June 2009, Nokia went live with its new global travel policy. Like most travel policies, it emphasizes preferred supplier compliance, approval processes and class of travel limitations, but the underlying credo of Nokia's policy is that "business travel should not be the de facto method of achieving your business objectives, but if you must travel then you have the ability to do so and to make responsible travel decisions," according to Perry.

The more restrictive policy has severely limited the amount of premium class travel. Economy class is the approved method of travel. Premium economy can be approved for overseas flights of more than five hours. Less than 200 company employees are authorized to fly business class, Perry said, adding that more than 40 percent of the company's workforce travels.

When developing the new policy, the travel team also wanted to make changes based on the company's commitment to employee work/life balance. The travel team gathered input and advice from 20 to 30 frequent travelers and senior managers from various departments around the world, including corporate security, human resources and sales and marketing. Perry said some employees felt they were forced to travel, and the policy overhaul was an avenue to address that.

"Now, we've empowered people to question that and say, you know what, I realize you've scheduled that meeting on Monday in Finland, but my kids have a ball game on Saturday, and I don't want to leave town on Saturday to arrive Sunday for a Monday meeting. Can't we do this over Halo, or make the meeting on a Wednesday or two or three weeks from now? I can book in advance, save some money and be there when it works for my work/life balance," Perry said.

To build the groundwork for the changes that were to come, in June 2008, Nokia hired a U.K.-based marketing agency to develop an integrated multimedia awareness campaign.

In September 2008,Nokia began a three-month multimedia blitz with employees that aimed to demonstrate the company's business travel volume and performance, and its effect on health and safety, work/life balance, productivity, the environment and the company's bottom line.

Included in the campaign were screen saver messages, newsletters, blogs and videos of executives endorsing the program.

Also, in the company's "Grounded" program, about a half-dozen Nokia managers from different countries and departments agreed to not travel for 30 days, and instead use travel alternatives to complete their business objectives. These managers then blogged about their experiences and highlighted the available alternatives to getting on a plane, including the company's 39 Halo videoconferencing suites.

Perry and the travel team also hosted five live events in Beijing, Helsinki, London and New York, in which the marketing agency developed an informational program using live actors and an airport atmosphere. During the events, the company showed employee-made videos demonstrating what business travel means to their roles and how a change in behavior can positively impact their work/life balance and the company. For example, one employee in a video explained how preferred airline compliance could generate €1 million in savings and how their department could make better use of the money.

"People receive messages in different ways," Perry said. "Some people learn by hearing. Some people learn by seeing. We tried to provide as many different ways of passing this information as possible, so the message would get out."

— Nielsen Business Media