< PrevNext > Personalizing Travel Risk Management By Michael B. Baker / 20 April 2017 / Contact Reporter Share Just as there is no single travel risk management approach that will work for every company, risk management needs also vary from traveler to traveler.Women need to consider precautions their male counterparts might take for granted. In some regions, travelers of certain races and religions might face discrimination they do not deal with at home. LGBTQ travelers might have to travel to countries where same-sex relations have dire social or legal consequences.Even so, adjusting a travel risk management program to accommodate the unique needs of specific travelers presents a challenge. To avoid running afoul of discrimination laws, employers must make sure advice is equitable across the board. Additionally, companies may not know which travelers have which needs, such as an LGBTQ employee who prefers to stay in the closet at work. We have policies and procedures geared to those who have the least risk, and those who are at the most risk aren't getting the training they need."BeTravelwise's Saul Shanagher As such, companies sometimes default to ignoring those needs altogether, said Saul Shanagher, director of travel safety training firm BeTravelwise. "The benchmark seems to be the straight, middle-aged, white guy, who generally is the least at risk," he said. "So we have policies and procedures geared to those who have the least risk, and those who are at the most risk aren't getting the training they need."Forgetting about the actual individual, though, is illogical, Facebook global travel safety and security manager Erin Wilk said, as individuals are the end customers of the program.On the other hand, there's the well-meaning but wrong-headed approach of trying to self-determine who needs specific information and then pushing it only to them. A senior manager at one of Wilk's former employers, for example, had a notion when the Zika virus was hitting the news. He wanted to send information specifically to female employees who might be trying to get pregnant. "Obviously, we didn't do that," Wilk said.Both extremes ascribe to the fallacy that information specific to a certain group's safety benefits that group only, she said. A far better approach is to make such information readily available to all employees. "I am a woman, but female travel safety isn't just for me," Wilk said. "Men have to deal with me, work for me and work with me. A more holistic way to look at it is that every employee matters, and when stuff hits the fan, it doesn't matter who that employee is."BeTravelwise, for example, has developed short, animated videos detailing safety tips for both women and LGBTQ travelers, and Shanagher said they have been attracting significant interest. It's important for companies to make the LGBTQ animation, in particular, publicly available, rather than requiring employees to log in or go through some kind of trackable portal, he said. That could deter closeted employees from watching.A forum for travelers to talk amongst themselves also can personalize traveler risk management, Wilk said. In such a forum, travelers not only seek out information they personally need but also share advice for fellow travelers, which in turn can inform a travel risk management program. "We have found at Facebook that the best ideas have come from travelers," she said. "Your people on the road have the best eyes and best ears, and they will get involved in that conversation."As a bonus, traveler engagement is one of the few components of travel risk management that costs nothing but time, Wilk added.Most companies' strategies to personalize travel risk management are still in the early stages, Shanagher said. As more companies pick up such efforts, however, those companies that ignore personalization may open themselves up to greater liability, according to Will Herter, director for risk management firm Control Risks."People are just trying to find ways to introduce these ideas, and it's not the norm but it will be the norm," Herter said. Without personalization, companies "will be putting a lot of responsibility on the traveler to find this information, and that creates a huge gap in potential liability for these companies." That applies even if a company senses no demand from employees to do so, Wilk said. "If no one else is pushing the conversation, we have a responsibility to do so. There are enough companies out there trying to address this that, if you are not, you will be held to the standard of those of us who are trying. There are real consequences for not beginning to unpeel this onion."