Implementing a TRM Program
Outside of convincing leaders to buy into a TRM Program, managing the implementation of the program presents the next greatest challenge. Change management is often difficult, even when implemented by an experienced project manager. TRM is even more difficult for people to accept as it requires individuals to acknowledge that when they travel, they may be at risk to bodily harm and even death.
Human beings typically have a hard time logically processing risk, unless they are used to living under risky conditions. MEDC’s provide relative security to their citizens through tax payer resources and therefore, citizens are not used to planning operations around the threat of injury or death. People in MEDC's usually rely on the emergency response infrastructure that their government provides, although this train of thought also allows for risk exposure regardless of where they travel.
Business managers must provide employees with the information necessary, to decrease vulnerability through access to location specific information, ongoing training, and emergency response assets.
The only way to truly control a crisis abroad is to be proactive and give some of the decision-making power to the traveler. There are too many unknown and uncontrollable variables for a TRM Program to manage alone. A certain level of trust and responsibility must be placed in the employee to make the right decision, and follow organization procedures.
A TRM Program can be initiated by implementing the following prioritized goals;
1. Obtain organization leadership approval: There are many moving pieces and business disciplines involved in managing travel risk. From booking travel to aftercare, there are processes that require expert oversight, not only to safeguard the travelers, but the company’s reputation and ability to deliver customer satisfaction. The TRM Program manager must have a comprehensive understanding of all the disciplines within the program to protect the company and provide lifesaving service to travelers.
Without buy-in from executive leaders in the organization, a TRM Program will not succeed. The reason that this type of program needs to be pushed from the top down, is the nature of the type of support being provided.
One of the greatest challenges is getting past the fear factor. Typically, organizations that have not dealt with crisis abroad, have also not considered the possibilities or consequences of unmitigated, risky travel.
Western populations particularly, have difficulty accepting that they may be headed into harms way when traveling abroad for work. Growing up in a relatively secure environment can cause people to think in a way that is not conducive to risk mitigation.
Organization leaders need to anticipate that their employees may be resistant to the implementation of such a program. It is recommended that they promote TRM as an empowering safety program, more than a security program. Employees are used to safety programs and typically respond more positively to safety over security programs.
2. Clearly define the mission of the TRM Program: Just as every commercial organization or nonprofit need a guiding mission statement, the TRM Program will as well. Every business has different goals as well as products and services. The mission statement for the TRM Program should fall in as a sub-statement to the company mission statement.
An example might be:
Company Mission Statement: Morton Security provides efficient travel and protective security services through technology, expertise and excellent customer service to commercial and nonprofit organizations.
TRM Mission Statement: Morton Security will ensure all protective security personnel are provided the information, risk mitigating services and crisis response/resolution services necessary to complete their assigned tasks in as safe a manner possible, always keeping in mind the clients safety and satisfaction is reliant on our protective security personnel.
3. Identify the TRM Program Chain of Command: The TRM Program should be a subprogram under an organization’s security operations department. As a security (safety) program, there should be one leader with whom the ultimate responsibility of success or failure lies. Under that one responsible leader, the program should be managed by multiple experts within organization, including;
Travel Risk Program Manager
Each leader must be an expert in their field as crisis abroad could lead to court testimony regarding criminal negligence. Those leaders may need to testify and if called upon and they will need to rely on experience and training to validate their testimony.
Depending on the size of the organization, the assigned managers may be able to perform their duties as additional responsibilities. Smaller companies may not be able to hire personnel to fill all the required positions and may also have a travel tempo that is manageable with fewer program personnel. If this is the case, it is possible to assign one or two individuals to cover multiple positions or pull from current security and HR personnel to perform duties when necessary. It is still recommended that those leaders be experts in their fields.
4. Initiate the development of a comprehensive TRM policy: Written policy is required for almost every aspect of operating an organization with employees, especially regarding employee safety. The TRM Program is no different and as a safety program, should receive even more attention than most programs. Written policy will be called into question should a catastrophic event occur, by legal and government officials in multiple jurisdictions. Employers that do not have comprehensive policies for travel will lose in court. Some countries require businesses to have policy regarding safe travel.
A policy should be written that covers traveler training, risk mitigation, traveler tracking, global crisis response, organization wide communication, and traveler aftercare.
A working group made up of the leaders in the TRM Program, along with Travel Management, Security Operations, Finance (Compliance) and HR should be convened in order to ensure all aspects of TRM are covered, reviewed, approved, and messaged to the travelers in the organization.
The policy should be periodically reviewed by labor and international law attorneys in order to ensure legal compliance in the organizations home country, as well as the locations they send travelers to.
5. Implement a policy dissemination plan through lines of business by internal marketing and customer outreach: A TRM Policy does not do any good if it is not disseminated throughout the organization and accepted by the employees as policy. Dissemination is the easy part but getting employees to accept changes in any type of travel policy is difficult.
A marketing plan should be developed to message the policy and program in a way that is palatable for employees. Many programs have found success in issuing rewards to employees that follow the policy and maintain a record of safe travel. The key is to push an empowering message through the marketing plan and show the traveling employees that the company cares about their safety over profit.
6. Develop an employee training program: The best way to practice crisis avoidance is through educating travelers on the threats at the location of travel. Educating employees is a way of decreasing that employee’s vulnerability level by increasing their situational awareness. Vulnerability is a risk factor that the TRM Program can control through education.
A training program that implements online training, classroom training, and scenario-based training is ideal for effective education in TRM. As the training program is integrated into the safety culture, it should eventually be viewed as standardized safety training that all employees receive when hired. Promoting a safe work environment abroad must be an organization initiative, and not limited to travelers only.
7. Develop or procure an internal traveler tracking platform that integrates with crisis response tools: Part of crisis avoidance is informing travelers when a crisis event is likely to take place and directing them away from that event. There is an over abundance of companies in the travel and security industry, providing travel risk avoidance and crisis management services. The cost to contract these services has become more and more affordable as the global marketplace has grown.
Most of the companies providing information regarding travel risk have also integrated the ability to track individual travelers through technology. The Global Distribution System (GDS) provides traveler booking information to organizations all over the world and can be integrated through online applications into tracking tools.
The TRM Program would benefit from contracting or developing their own online platform for tracking travel, conducting analysis and reacting to crisis events. Swift reaction is the key to successful crisis resolution and there are many companies that specialize in providing that capability.
8. Grow travel and security vendor network globally: Part of mitigating travel risk is knowing who to call. A robust security network of global providers is extremely important to effective crisis avoidance and management. Relying on one vendor to provide protective security services is not a realistic solution.
Ideally, managers would be able to use their own resources to provide protection for their personnel traveling abroad. This is only possible if that organization already has employees working at the location of travel. There are so many different regulations regarding security that it is near impossible for an organization to retain personnel that can operate everywhere.
Eventually, managers will have to reach out to local vendors or global companies that subcontract, for security. It is much easier to use a licensed local, that understands the law and culture, than to maintain personnel that are well versed in all thing’s security at every location the organization operates.
TRM Program leaders should be frequently traveling to regional conferences and security meetings to constantly growing their network of security providers. They should also develop an on-boarding process that integrates organization standards (for protective security specifically), KPI's and a periodic evaluation process to ensure due diligence is being performed. If a crisis event takes place and protective security fails to perform their contracted duties, the TRM Program will not want to bear the responsibility of that failure, due to inadequate vetting and due diligence.
9. Periodically evaluate the program through customer surveys, debriefs and policy recommendation: The TRM Program is an internal business that provides services to customers (employees). As an organization that provides services, it is important that the program request and analyze feedback from travelers in their organization. It is recommended that a survey be performed after every trip that services are used, as well as documented debriefs for any travelers involved in a crisis event.
Customer service is critical to maintaining the confidence of executive leaders as well as the organization's employees. Asking for employee feedback will only help increase program confidence.