PAs are responsible for overseas travel and event management – yet risk and security management remains a grey area. David Curran, Director of Edson Tiger, advises how to deal with such arrangements
The world is becoming a more complex and challenging place for business travellers and those organising events overseas. At the same time globalisation means that many organisations are increasingly engaged in overseas activity across an ever-greater number of diverse locations, while individuals are becoming ever more anxious about overseas travel due to a series of high-profile incidents – not least in Europe.
This has put health and safety at the heart of travel and overseas event management and some recent legal actions bought by families against employers has highlighted the statutory responsibilities of employers in terms of their duty of care towards travelling personnel. This, along with the clear moral responsibility we owe to our colleagues, has led to ever more companies embedding Travel Risk Management Systems (TRMS) within their wider travel policies and procedures.
What does this mean in practical terms?
Firstly, it means creating a system for monitoring and recording employee travel, either in-house or through your travel management provider. This should include an approval process for each travel event that takes into account the prevailing threat and risk rating of the country concerned (most assessment systems use a five-point scale). Where the risk is above that experienced in Europe (typically countries rated three or above) then the travel event should be flagged up and risk assessed so that specific interventions can be considered.
Secondly, the right contingency plans should be put in place – the ‘what happens if’. Typically, these will cover such eventualities as the need for urgent medical treatment or the loss of documentation or valuables due to theft. The organisation’s response also needs to take into account the local environment in any one location. Is there suitable supporting infrastructure, including police and emergency services. Is it similar to that in the UK or not?
At the tactical level, you may consider establishing your own selection criteria for airlines, ground transport services and hotels. Many clients ask us about security based hotel selection. How do you choose a suitable hotel based on location, the level of security provision and its local profile, and what should your criteria be for selecting a room?
It sounds complicated but it’s not. Most of the criteria are common sense when you think about it and easy to apply once you know the right questions to ask.
The third element is preparing your staff. Organisations are expected to train their personnel to operate certain types of equipment, work at height or in a manufacturing environment, so why not when working in unfamiliar and perhaps challenging environments?
An organisation’s legal duty of care includes ensuring that staff are properly prepared before they travel, and this should take into account individual factors such as their level of experience. The type of preparation required should reflect the nature of the destination, so travellers visiting another European capital require less briefing and preparation than an individual or group deploying to a complex environment or a high threat location.
How can I sell this to senior management?
Senior management may be inclined to see such an initiative as simply an overhead. But in reality there are sound commercial reasons why organisations should address this issue:
- Risk management should be seen as an enabler not simply a cost. Ultimately good risk management allows organisations to operate and do business in places where otherwise they could not. Sometimes in places where their competitors fear to tread so giving the organisation a business edge.
- The cost of putting these measures in place and helping personnel avoid incidents, rather than helping them recover in-country afterwards, is a far cheaper option. A casevac due to a bad case of malaria and extended sick leave is much more expensive than providing a briefing on climatic health and the importance of taking prophylactics.
- It ensures the organisation meets its legal duty of care and thus avoids the threat of a successful legal action being bought against the company.
- Such incidents, and any resulting legal actions, can attract negative publicity resulting in wider reputational damage which can in turn have a long term commercial impact.
- Finally, in our experience, putting the right measures in place and properly preparing personnel helps build a more motivated and effective workforce. Appreciative of the support and direction they are given, more willing to travel and more comfortable when they are overseas.
So, what should I do next?
First have a look at how you are doing things now. You may have a Travel Management Company (TMC) providing a range of travel booking and related services already. Make sure you understand what they do now and what additional services you may be entitled too. These may include procedural travel tracking, the provision of basic country information briefs and travel alerts.
Secondly, learn from others, look at what other comparable organisations do through your professional network.
Thirdly, talk to a specialist International Risk Management Company and seek some initial advice and guidance which will help point you in the right direction.
David is a director with Edson Tiger, an international risk management company that provides consultancy, training and protective services for organisations operating in complex and challenging environments overseas. Prior to this, David occupied senior posts in the UK Intelligence and Security Services for more than 20 years and served in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East and has first-hand experience of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan