How to work out a travel policy within a year - experience of ESforce Holding

To work out and to introduce a travel policy from scratch within a year? It is a real sport achievement very few are capable of! One of them is Julia Sirotenko, travel coordinator in ESforce Holding, an eSports organization. She shared her experience with the participants of ABT-ACTE Russia final educational session. The event was held in Swissotel Krasnye Holmy on December 12.

Cybersport - tournaments in computer and video games - has been acknowledged officially in 16 countries including Russia (in 2016). The competitions are held all over the world, mainly in the USA, but also in Asia and Europe. The largest championship is Dota2 International, the prize fund of which amounted to $24 bln in 2017.

"Last year there were about 120 employees in our holding, and the company did not have even a single contract with a travel provider. My task was to work out a travel policy, to conclude agreements with airlines and hotels, to establish discipline among the employees", Julia shared her experience.

ESforce business travellers used to book hotels through "On the second day of my work in the company an employee came up to me and said: "Great, we now have a travel manager! Here is my passport, I need a Schengen visa!" And he just walked away. He thought only a passport was necessary for a visa".

At the stage of travel policy development Julia and her colleagues from the HR department studied the statistics and the geography of business trips. Then she suggested dividing all the travellers into three categories and setting the limits for hotel accommodation and flight classes for each of them. The business trip application form and the procedure of business trip approval were worked out as well, the exhaustive list of refundable and non-refundable expenses was included into the travel policy. "Some of our business travellers even thought that the company would reimburse all their expenses during the business trip - even their purchases in duty free! And many of them did not know at all that they had to make a financial report after their trip", Julia said.

The speaker stressed that the process of trip provision development was largely based on the practices of other companies, but with due account of the special features of their company: "Our holding includes many business units, and each of them has the right to make changes to the travel policy in order to cut travel costs".

In order for the travel policy introduction to be smooth, designers even made a cartoon with two characters: a travel manager and a business traveller - an ESforce Man. He does everything in the right way in the cartoon, from the business trip application to report provision.

"We also often update our travel policy", Julia stressed. "For example, not long ago we added a provision into the document, according to which, in case the employee is a frequent traveller, he is obliged to have a second foreign passport - at the company's expense. I keep a travel profile of every business traveller. We frequently have urgent business trips, so we need to have the latest information on our employees' valid visas to the countries of the Schengen agreement and the USA". In every profile, there are all the numbers of loyalty cards of hotels and airlines, service class limits and preferences regarding meals on board.

Interestingly, there are employees in ESforce Holding the travel policy requirements are not applicable to – the cybersportsmen. "Their flight rules are completely different. Usually the host party arranges all their trips, but sometimes we do it. I know all their preferences: no early flights, long connections, complicated routes. Besides, they are to be delivered to their destination despite anything - rain, snow, a hurricane. We are ready to arrange their transportation even by a sled dog team or a deer sleigh! Because according to the rules, if at least one team member misses the competition, the whole team leaves the game automatically", Julia explained.

At the moment there are about 450 employees in the holding, and about 70% of them travel on business regularly. "In the future we want to fully automate the process of business trip application. However, we are not planning to introduce online booking in the next year or two - our travellers are not yet ready to become self-bookers", Julia summed up.

Text: Ekaterina Larina