John Sharman is CEO of Tuxedo Money Solutions, a leading payment technology and pre-paid service provider

Employers are increasingly empowering staff to take their travel needs into their own hands.

This positive step change within the business travel arena is evidenced in recent research, which revealed that nearly two-thirds of travel managers are loosening the reins and allowing their employees to make their own bookings.

Historically, organisations entered into limiting contracted travel management agreements that allowed them to control and monitor travel spend.

However, as the lines between leisure and business travel blur, and as travel behaviour is shaped by mobile technology, there is a real demand for autonomy and greater flexibility.

A study by Expedia showed that 78 per cent of employees use their smartphone for travel planning such as taxis, booking passes etc. Yet previous restrictions at corporate level would have prevented them from using this technology in a professional capacity.

But the freedom era we’re currently in embraces their personal preferences and so the power balance has shifted to the traveller.

While empowering staff to manage their travel negates the need for lengthy travel agreement contracts, organisations now face a separate administrative challenge – the reconciliation and reimbursement of each individual’s travel expenses.

Ordinarily, a company’s expense claim process can make claiming expenses an administrative burden, threatening productivity owing to hours wasted making claims.

As a result, an increasing number of businesses are looking for an appropriate solution that allows them to embrace the concept of booking freedom, all the while ensuring expenses are managed effectively.

This is perhaps why we’re witnessing an ever-increasing number of businesses opting for pre-paid corporate expense solutions.

This solution allows for total visibility over expenditure, with the ability to view employee transactions in real-time, allocate funds by department and individual employees as well as the facility to pull unused funds back off the cards into the controlling account.

This also means employees will never be out of pocket – and more importantly won’t be wasting valuable time logging expense claims.

In large organisations, the requirement for managing expenses can be an even greater task, with divisional P&Ls and the potential for more wastage and greater need for scrutiny across a wider employee base.

For such businesses, Tuxedo offers organisations the ability to create a hierarchy of accounts to manage cards. This offering not only allows organisations to segment card users by division, region, etc, but also enables the management of these tiered accounts to be delegated, providing a simple departmental budgeting, reporting and administration solution.

The move to pre-paid solutions is ever increasing, with global pre-paid card transaction volumes having grown by more than 20 per cent during the past four years.

In an environment where cost control and operating efficiency will continue to be a focus for many organisations, a review of travel and expense management solutions could provide a simple, low-cost but highly effective way of loosening the reins while still retaining an element of control.

By allowing employees to book their own travel, businesses are already demonstrating a massive shift in attitude and policy. The benefits of embracing it are clear to see, from employee satisfaction through to reputation for innovative and positive culture.

But empowering employees to make their own travel arrangements needs to work for both the employee and the employer.

Through an adoption of similarly innovative solutions such as pre-paid card expense management, business travel can remain effectively autonomous yet simultaneously controlled.

Read our contributor biography of John Sharman