Four ways companies can improve expense operations

Employee satisfaction is important in every business, just as every department plays a role in improving the employee experience. However, expense management is often forgotten. And this is despite the fact that it can be taken as a sign of appreciation of the employees and willingness of the organization to take care of their welfare. However, there are four ways companies can improve expense operations.

This is according to recent SAP Concur research in Expense Management and Employee Experience. Many employees worry about their personal finances, especially now that the cost of living in the Netherlands has skyrocketed. Because of these higher costs and employee concerns, financial processes and refunds are increasingly being looked at. So managing expenses has never been more important to maintaining a good relationship between employers and employees, says SAP Concur.

Appreciated and supported

The simple expense process, speedy reimbursement, and updated policies allow employees to feel valued and supported by their employer. Inappropriate processes prevent employees from taking full advantage of expense reports, which leads to employees viewing themselves as unimportant.

Some employees also find complex expense processes daunting. They are afraid of committing fraud by mistake, of jeopardizing their job security by doing something wrong or they cannot wait for a refund. The survey shows that nearly half (48%) of Dutch employees worry that their managers will think badly of them if their expense reports are high. This indicates that some employees are reluctant to declare all of their business expenses. Meanwhile, 54% fear they will get into trouble with their manager if they declare their expenses incorrect.

SAP Concur outlines four steps Finance and HR teams can take to improve expense policies and processes to support their employees during these challenging times.

1. Leverage technology such as artificial intelligence and automation

The way many expense management policies are designed falls short of the challenges facing businesses and employees today. New or unfamiliar manual tasks for employees often create disruptions during expense operations.

Automation technologies can support efficient and simple operations. Organizations that already implement such technologies are reaping the benefits of improved employee experience and efficiency. This relieves stress on the employee and increases employee satisfaction.

Employees agree – A SAP Concur survey showed that 51% of Dutch employees cite automating the expense process as the best way to streamline it. Digital tools are also on the rise, with 68% of finance and HR decision makers already using AI to ensure payroll complies with government regulations. Furthermore, 58% say digital tools help manage spending in their organization more effectively. Without these digital tools, finance and HR teams would have to spend more time debugging and manually and inefficiently checking for compliance.

2. Ask employees for feedback on a regular basis

How companies respond to the challenges of managing expenses will either increase employee satisfaction and enhance talent retention, or create a bottleneck in the employee-employer relationship. The talent will be withdrawn because of this.

Employees deal with the expense process regularly, so business leaders need to understand how to improve it by asking their employees for feedback. The survey showed that 90% of Dutch employees indicate that feedback initiatives to measure satisfaction are decreasing in their company, while only 32% say this is happening often.

Companies need to understand that initiating feedback is important for improving employee satisfaction, according to SAP Concur. It can help reduce stress in the workplace without direct financial support. Only by talking to employees can employers understand what training is appropriate or what policies they can improve to make employees feel more comfortable about spending.

3. Creatively strong account policies aligned with the future

Expense and invoicing management systems have always had a reputation for being time consuming and difficult to track, but this could be different.

The problem of insufficient and lengthy expenditure processes is exacerbated by the current economic situation and is frustrating for the staff. At the same time, companies are keen to reduce inefficiencies and reduce costs. There is an opportunity to do this while improving procedures and policies to support staff.

Expense policy should be clear and straightforward. An employee release should state all the points clearly, cover the basics, and contain no legal jargon or company jargon. It should also be accessible. The easier the policy is to understand and find, the easier it is for employees to follow and implement it. Also, employers should be aware that types of expenses and conditions have changed in recent years with trends such as working from home.

4. Ensure that managers communicate policy transparently and openly

Technology like AI and automation is critical, but it must be combined with a culture of transparency and open communication. This improves relationships and enables employees to easily navigate the expense process. Finance and HR teams can then manage the process efficiently.

All employees must be clearly informed of any updates to the policy. Explaining the reasons behind policy changes and how those changes can be beneficial to all employees helps with adoption and compliance. It is important that there is a policy that is followed, but also that everyone has a responsibility – without exception, regardless of position and status – to keep it transparent to everyone.

Expense Management in Times of Inflation: How to Improve the Employee Experience report is based on the opinions of 2,500 employees who travel regularly for work, as well as 750 financial and 750 HR decision-makers within companies. The research was conducted in Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain and the United Kingdom, by Coleman Parks in July and August 2022.

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