More Corps. Instituting Mtgs. Policies
A majority of corporations either now have or this year plan to develop formal policies covering meeting planning and procurement, most of which center around mitigating the risk associated with staging events, according to an exclusive survey of 195 corporate meeting buyers.
Forty-two percent of all Meetings Monitor respondents said they have a formal meetings policy in place, with an additional 23 percent planning to have such a policy by year-end. The remaining group has no plans to create a meetings policy.
The growth of meetings policies—20 percent of those respondents with a policy initially implemented it in 2002 or 2003—seems to be fueled by senior management's commensurately increasing interest in group and meetings travel expenditures, desire to mitigate risk and the increase of travel and meeting management third parties suggesting policy implementation as a method of cost control.
Most corporations with a policy enacted it, at least in part, to gain control over contract signing authority, as about two-thirds of all respondents with policies noted that aspect has been codified. Much attention has been paid by corporations leery of potentially damaging attrition and cancellation clauses in contracts signed by unauthorized employees. About 65 percent of respondents also add a requisite approval by executive management before meetings may be staged.
Management consulting firm A.T. Kearney Inc. debuted its first formal meetings policy in the beginning of 2003, applicable to events of at least 50 attendees, said Alexandria, Va.-based chief of global procurement Jim Haddow. Earlier this year, that policy was refined to apply to all meetings of 10 or more attendees. "Meetings must be registered so they can be added to a global calendar of events," Haddow said. "Also, they must utilize certain preferred hotel and air suppliers and our planners. We monitor compliance and we step in where we can."
Later this year, Haddow said, the meetings policy may be further honed to narrow the list of preferred destinations and properties meeting sponsors may choose. As in A.T. Kearney's policy, about 45 percent of Monitor respondents with policies restrict meeting sponsors' choices of meeting sites.
There is no penalty for noncompliance other than an official notification from a member of A.T. Kearney's senior management, which Haddow said typically is convincing enough to deter further noncompliance.
A.T. Kearney meeting sponsors must use a particular code on expense forms to have meeting expenditures reimbursed. If a report with one of those codes is generated from a non-registered meeting, senior management is alerted. "This is a hot area for senior management," Haddow said. "They are really taking a look at meetings and where they're held."
As in Kearney's policy, about two-thirds of Monitor respondents indicated their policies contain requirements that sponsors register their events with a central point. "We have an informal policy that any meeting of 20 or more attendees needs to run through my office," said Marianne Goodman, manager of administrative services for Boston-based information technology firm Keane Inc. "We have two planners here, and we want to see if we can add value."
That provision is included in Keane's corporate travel policy, though there is no current codified consequence if it is not followed. "That's something we're looking at," Goodman said, "but everyone knows about it, and if they plan a meeting in which we're not involved, we will remind them to keep us involved."
Though Goodman's goal is to maximize her department's influence on meeting planning, be it site selection or negotiation, she at minimum expects to be included in contractual review. Keane allows individual meeting sponsors to select meeting sites, as long as they do not choose exceptionally high-end properties, she said.
Meeting policies at San Jose, Calif.-based technological equipment firm Cisco Systems Inc. have been in place for a few years and currently are under minor revision to address expense allocation and attendee alcohol consumption, said manager of meeting services Michele Snock. Like many Silicon Valley firms, though, Cisco strenuously avoids use of the word "mandate," though compliance with policy is monitored.
Cisco's goal is full centralization of all meetings activities through Snock's department. "We have professional meeting planners who can find the best deals, negotiate the best rates and mitigate liability," Snock said. "There are no repercussions if you don't, but we certainly encourage it."
Monitoring compliance is aided by Cisco's organizational structure: The meeting services department is within the company's finance division, and there is no way for a meeting sponsor to pay for meeting expenditures without submitting a purchase order through the finance division. When a request for payment of meeting expenditures that have not been submitted through the meeting services department is received, Snock's division is notified to address the issue with the noncompliant sponsor.