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Technology has reshaped the work place in so many different ways – from how we communicate with colleagues around the world, to the rise of devices in the workplace and increased ability to access data at any time anywhere. Yet as much as all other processes have been digitised, expenses remain the last bastion of the manual process. Steadfastly refusing to modernise, employees are plagued by excel spreadsheets and paper receipts.

This outdated approach can give rise to questionable expense practices – the odd family lunch slipped in here and the occasional drink there. But an ambiguous expense management policy can give rise to frustration and drive a wedge between employees and the finance directors or administrative staffs who are at the spiky end of compliance. Here are some tips on how to best instil a modern company expense culture, strike the right balance and make the most of the latest business technologies.

Slow and steady wins the expense race

If your company is using new technologies that will spice-up a previously lax expense system, it’s important to remember to slowly introduce this over time and ensure employees have access to all the information needed. You cannot expect them to adapt to a strict system when there hasn’t ever been one. If this is the case, initiate the change subtly and in small, manageable pieces. Start by providing staff with the correct information and highlighting changes such as only booking approved partner hotels, followed by implementing a maximum amount for lunch expenses and so on. Start slow and enforce over time, avoiding a shock to the company culture which may lead to some resistance.

Striking the right balance

Achieving the correct balance between mitigating compliance issues and, at the same time, not disturbing the company culture and ease of the expense process for employees, is a tricky task to master. On one hand you want avoid drastically altering your culture so much so that it changes the way you do business, but on the other, you don’t want to get yourself into hot water and end up on the wrong side of compliance. Technology should be seen as a tool for businesses not an obstacle. Some software can in fact prevent you blindly walking into said challenge by highlighting trends and flagging up any issues from data gathered. This data can be utilised strategically to ensure you’re staying on the right side of compliance and to educate employees by highlighting the potential risk.

Lead by example

Instilling the right attitudes when it comes to company expense culture must come from the top and filter down. Senior employees should be leading by example. This way the technology makes employees – at all levels – equals. Staff members will be more inclined to implement company expense rules if they feel the entire organisation is marching to the beat of the same drum. Case in point: an employee should be allowed to fly business class – whatever the level – if they fly for over eight hours several times a year. Yet, at the same time allow for a request function to provide some flexibility for specialists – within reason. Publishing an expense policy for the entire workforce to see is an ideal way to demonstrate this. An open approach is a good approach.

As they say, last but not least. The expense system may be late to the digitised game, but change has already started to take place and will grow exponentially. With this in mind, it’s imperative that a new system should be devised that all employees follow, and implemented in a way that makes sense for each individual business. This will ensure factors such as business culture are not negatively affected by this change.

By Chris Baker, UK Managing Director of Enterprise at Concur