corporate travel manager - handshake

How To Hire a Corporate Travel Manager

Historically, a Corporate Travel Manager had the sole responsibility of managing all of the internal operations dealing with a company’s corporate travel program.  Over the past 5-10 years this role has changed a great deal.  Certainly, among large global organizations dedicated corporate travel managers play a significant role in an organization’s policy, supplier mix, and duty of care.  The role is highly strategic and as global travel manager is responsible for one of the largest spend categories in the organization.

But for most companies, the role of the Travel Manager has either expanded into other areas dealing with indirect sourcing or in other cases sourcing professionals have added the role of Travel Manager to the spend categories she handles.   Key to understanding how to hire a corporate travel manager is to first clearly define the need and role.

How to Define the Corporate Travel Manager Role

On an enterprise scale, the company must understand the scope of responsibilities the corporate Travel Manager will cover.  The workload and expertise required will be heavily driven by corporate policy, program maturity, and corporate appetite for change.  No matter how large the program, if the Corporate Travel Manager does not have the authority to effect change or enforce policy, her tenure may be short lived as well qualified global travel managers are not interested in zero sum gains.

Today’s seasoned corporate travel manager understands the levers to pull with suppliers across the entire corporate travel supply chain to produce a significant impact on the program from a cost and service perspective.  But, she has no ability to be influential without the right level of executive support – travel still remains highly personal and policy enforcement requires corporate mandates from above.

Questions to Consider

For most organizations who are looking to hire a corporate travel manager, the central questions to consider are whether or not a full time resource is really required and if not, can an existing sourcing or procurement resource suffice?  Usually, the latter benefits from a strong business background and traditional negotiating skills; however, also typically lacks the corporate travel expertise that is truly unique and sometimes defies traditional sourcing rules.

Once an organization decides what “type” of corporate travel manager it needs, it must also realize that the likelihood that some knowledge gaps will exist no matter the selection is important.  In corporate travel, unlike many other spend categories within organizations, the corporate travel manager must possess a wide set of skills – the intricacies of supplier negotiations which will seem counter-intuitive to traditional sourcing professionals, travel technology which changes with the day, travel agency operations, expense systems, HR systems, risk management, and much more.

What to Consider for any Successful Candidate

Once an organization understands what they are looking for and accepts and plans for knowledge gaps, the following questions should be considered for any successful candidate:

  • Does the challenge the program presents match the skill-set, ambition, and background of the candidate?
  • Will the company provide the tools, support, and budget necessary for success?
  • Can this person relate and interact with both senior leadership and entry-level personnel? The corporate travel manager will interact with senior leadership and also with entry level personnel who encounter a variety of travel-related issues.
  • Is this candidate analytical? This requirement goes well beyond the ability to manage a spreadsheet.  Does this person understand that corporate travel plays a critical role across a company’s entire supply chain?
  • Is this candidate creative? The industry is going through major change.  “Old school” thinking will yield “old school” results in an environment where new thinking is rewarded
  • Does this candidate have a background in corporate travel? The candidate should have a strong background in at least one area of the corporate travel industry – supplier side, travel agency side, or travel technology. Remember, there will be knowledge gaps.  KesselRun has been sourcing corporate travel managers and fulfilling this role in an outsourced model for 16 years and has never met anyone with deep industry knowledge across every aspect of the industry
  • Is the candidate willing to learn new things? Sounds like a cliché, but once again we’ve been doing this for a long time and across scores of clients.  We learn something new each day.
  • Can this candidate enjoy a hard-working, thank-less position? This position can be somewhat self deprecating. Not kidding. When things are running smoothly, all is quiet.  No news is good news.  When the CFO has a bad experience even if out of the corporate travel manager’s control, he/she will hear about it. Loudly.

When searching for a Corporate Travel Manager, the main thing is to understand what you are looking to accomplish, what you must have and what is not required.  Where there are gaps, determine who can fill those gaps and how those resources will interact with the corporate travel manager.  Be cautious of hiring a strong full-time resource if the program doesn’t really require it.

Even if you have the budget, you run a strong risk of losing a lot of gained intelligence out of sheer boredom or lack of challenge. You may want to consider corporate travel consulting services instead of a full-time resource.

Lastly, for a corporate travel manager hire the right attitude.  The corporate travel manager has a lot of visibility both internally and with suppliers.  An attitude that matches the corporate culture, the right skill set, and a desire to grow are key.

Good Luck!