Is your expense policy costing you top talent?

Within the next five years, most employees will be millennials. They will have grown up with mobile devices, apps, and technology that’s as simple and seamless to use as it is powerful. They expect the same in their workplaces. What happens when they don’t get it?

Here’s what most millennials can still expect at work: you book your flights and accommodation on your personal credit card, still the norm in Asia where corporate cards are still extremely rare. While abroad you pay for transport, meals, and other expenses via various methods – everything from local cash to your credit card (stored in Uber) to Apple Pay.

When you arrive back and sit down to your expense claims, you’ve got a stack of paper receipts as well as numerous e-receipts to print or photocopy, tabulate in a spreadsheet, and reconcile with your bank statements. Miss one, and you’ll be personally out of pocket for the amount – though admittedly, even a successful claim may leave you waiting for weeks to get your claims back. In some workplaces, you’ll even have to glue or staple the receipts together so that finance doesn’t separate them!

For millennials used to tracking all their personal expenses with a single mobile app, the contrast is too stark not to be noticed. Keep it going for months or years and at some point, they’ll ask “is this company really progressive enough for my career?”

Compare this to a fully-digitised T&E experience. You go through the exact same process of booking flights and racking up expenses abroad. Now, however, you forward your e-receipts to a single email address as they reach your inbox, and snap a photo of every paper receipt that you collect. For some of your transactions, like Uber rides or hotel stays, you don’t even need to do a thing: API integration lets them automatically send the data to your company’s T&E platform.

In the lounge, before you return home, you upload your receipt photos to your T&E app, which combines them with your e-receipts and can even automatically reconcile them with your bank’s transaction history. By the time you touch down, your entire claims process is complete, leaving you free to get back to business. If you’re lucky, finance might even have reimbursed you for your out-of-pocket expenses!

To their credit, businesses in Asia are starting to change. Concur works closely with a range of banks, travel agents, and fintech companies, and many of them tell me that their customers in the C-suite are becoming more open about digitising their T&E processes for this very reason. Often, the executives themselves are feeling the pain as much as the millennials they’re hiring – after all, everyone goes through the same claims process, and many others besides millennials are embracing mobile and cloud apps to handle their personal finances with ease.

A clunky, laborious T&E experience sticks out like a sore thumb in the workplace. If you want to be known as an employer of choice, now’s the time to start digitising and streamlining your expense policies. It’ll give millennials – actually, all your top talent – the freedom to do what they want to do: work that’s meaningful and adds value to them and the business.

Sandeep Krishnamani is Head of Partnerships – SE Asia at Concur based in Singapore.