When it comes to creating and sustaining a positive company culture, most organizations consider their core values, employee recognition, and company perks. The consequences of expense report misconduct probably don’t even come to mind, or seem too inconsequential to consider—maybe a handful of employees are sneaking in flight upgrades or a few extra cocktails here or there. Although these minor infractions may seem like no big deal on the surface, they can be indicative of a larger problem. Setting clear expectations and guidelines around travel and entertainment expenses is crucial to establishing a healthy company culture.
Minimal oversight into company expenses can have damaging consequences. Recently, Under Armour came under fire for “being run like a frat house,” which was uncovered in the executive team’s expense reports. Executives regularly expensed strip club visits for male employees and their clients. Receipts for gambling, limousines, and even go-go dancers were submitted for reimbursement. This created a toxic environment for female employees, who were either excluded entirely from these events or invited based on attractiveness, which led them to question their opportunities for advancement within the company.
In contrast, many companies use their expense policies to reinforce their values and strengthen their company culture. For example, Starbucks offers full tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing undergraduate degrees at certain universities, emphasizing the company’s commitment to lifelong learning. At Genentech, employees can reimburse gym memberships, reinforcing the company’s commitment to employee health. Work-life balance is highly valued at LinkedIn, which allows employees to reimburse child care, pet care, massages, and house cleaning.
Building an atmosphere of trust, transparency, and efficiency around expense reports helps contribute to a similar atmosphere in other parts of the organization. For example, Intuit implemented a standardized policy for addressing expense report misconduct. In collaboration with corporate investigations, audit, and human resources, Intuit created uniform expectations of conduct and consequences around the world.
Expense policies around what can and cannot be expensed is reflective of company culture as a whole. When designed with a clear direction in mind, expense policies can strengthen your organization’s values and avoid unnecessary anxiety and mistrust. In our whitepaper, we outline specific examples demonstrating how you can create a healthy expense culture that resonates with your employees.