Your Employees Want to Do the Right Thing

By The Center Team on November 15, 2018

We believe that when people have the right information, in the right environment, they make the right choices. Our research backed it up.

We recently surveyed 300 employees at a range of small, medium-sized, and large companies for a deeper understanding of their attitudes toward business travel, expense reports, and corporate cards. The good news? As we expected, people generally want to do the right thing.

Tools and Processes

A full 4 in 5 of the respondents still use manual processes such as collecting receipts and inputting expenses into spreadsheets to complete their expense reports (52%), or a combination of manual processes and online tools (28%). Only about 20% submit reports online.

Achieve more: Embracing streamlined tools and processes saves everyone time, shortens cycles, and helps your team stay focused on more strategic priorities than taping receipts to sheets of paper.

Expense Reports: Friend or Foe?

Though more than a quarter (27%) of respondents felt that submitting expense reports was time-consuming (likely due to the manual processes mentioned above), and 23% wished there was a more effective way to get them done, 75% of employees say they understand why expense reports are needed. Only a handful (6%) feel they are a waste of time.

Achieve more: Though most employees understand why expense reports are important, you can level up by explaining how those expenses connect to larger business priorities. Engaging your team in the big picture gets everyone working together more effectively.

A Little Knowledge

Six out of 10 of employees are aware of the budget for travel & entertainment and keep their spending within it most of the time. An additional 18% do their best to stay within the budget but occasionally go over. And well over half (61%) would be more inclined to stay on budget if spend were monitored and tracked in real time.

On the other side of the spectrum, 16% don’t know what the budget is—and only 5% know what the budget is but ignore it. In general, employees at smaller companies were less likely to know what their budget is (29% compared to 16% overall).

Achieve more: When employees know what the budget is, they’re more inclined to respect it. Even if you’re not big enough for sophisticated tools and processes, timely communication about how much employees have available to spend will go a long way toward hitting key numbers.

Business Travel

An impressive 4 in 5 business travelers consistently make cost-conscious decisions, adhere to company policy, or generally try to be reasonable with their expenses. Only 13% aim to “work the perks,” and just a handful (6%) ignore the budget in favor of meeting their sales and business targets.

Achieve more: When you have clear policies in place, employees are inclined to follow them—though it’s also important to empower employees to seize opportunities on behalf of the business from time to time. Consistent communication and a shared understanding of your strategic priorities are key.

The Facts on Fraud

If you’re concerned about fraud, the good news is that almost 9 in 10 (87%) of the employees we surveyed never charge “work-related” expenses to their corporate cards, and 74% said there is “no way” they could get away with personal expenses on a corporate card. Interestingly, small company employees were much more likely to say personal expenses could go under the radar (43% said it would be easy or were somewhat confident they could get away with it, compared to 26% overall).

As for which questionable expenses do occasionally go under the radar, the top offenders were Amazon purchases (7%), rideshare and food delivery apps (4.5%), and music streaming services (1%).

Achieve more: Since our results do show that employees generally do want to do the right thing, establishing and communicating clear policies about these kinds of “gray area” expenses is worthwhile, even when you’re just starting out. Even better? Involving your team in setting those policies.

At Center, one of our mottos is that “We believe that the solution lies not in statements and spreadsheets, but in tools and trust. And that when people have the right information, in the right environment, they will make the right choices.”


Our research backs this up, which is great news for companies of all sizes.