Expense reimbursements normally involve huge amounts of paper receipts and headache. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Click here to learn more.
For many of us, the thought of managing expense reimbursements conjures visions of chaos, frustrated employees, and piles of uncategorized paper receipts. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to revamp your reimbursement process.
A few simple improvements to your reimbursement process can help you deliver better employee experiences and create fewer headaches for your team. Below, we’ll outline six steps you can take now to optimize your expense reimbursement process. But before we get to that, let’s quickly review the elements of a typical reimbursement process.
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What is expense reimbursement?
When employees spend their own funds to cover job-related expenses, employers repay the employee for these costs. These types of expenses often occur when an employee travels for work, but can also be incurred when an employee works remotely, has an immediate equipment need, or pays for a service or credential that helps them complete their work.
Most companies have a policy in place that determines what kinds of expenses can be reimbursed, defines any limits on reimbursement amounts, and outlines the process that employees must follow to submit and receive their reimbursement.
Types of reimbursement expenses
|These are the costs an employee encounters when they travel for their job. This may include meals, lodging, mileage, or incidentals such as in-flight Wi-Fi access or supplies.
|Rather than reimbursing an employee for each separate expense, a per diem reimbursement is a defined amount of money the employer will reimburse an employee for each day, regardless of the actual expenses. Per diem reimbursement can simplify the reimbursement process for the finance team and the employee.
|Some employers supplement their health care plans by offering to reimburse employees for some medical costs.
|In order to encourage healthy behaviors, employers may reimburse their workers for the cost of gym memberships, meditation apps, or fitness trackers.
|When employees work from home, whether it’s a hybrid or remote work model, employers may reimburse them for expenses related to maintaining a home office. This may include the costs of high-speed internet or equipment.
|Some companies reimburse their employees for costs associated with job-related training, higher education, or certifications. Unless the company policy states otherwise, these expenses must usually be approved ahead of time.
6 steps to improve your reimbursement process
1. Define your reimbursement policy
The first step to optimizing your reimbursement process is to create (and communicate!) the rules. Let employees know what kinds of expenses qualify for reimbursement, and if there are any special requirements or approvals needed in order to receive the reimbursement.
For example, does the employee need to make the purchase from a specific vendor or provide any documentation beyond a receipt? Does the request need to be submitted within a specific time window?
Define your reimbursement policy so that employees have answers to these types of questions prior to submitting their requests. Communicating these answers and making the documented policy easily accessible to your employees — whether that means sharing the policy directly with employees or linking the policy in an information portal — will prevent unnecessary work for your team and avoid any employee confusion.
2. Standardize every request
One of the biggest headaches for finance teams is inconsistent or unstandardized reimbursement submissions that create additional, time-consuming work. The easiest way to avoid this frustration is to require the use of a standard reimbursement request form.
A standardized reimbursement request form makes it clear to the employee which information they need to provide, and spares your team the effort of tracking down missing or incomplete information.
Many business process automation tools include a form feature that can be easily built and modified, and accessed from any laptop or mobile device. Once complete, the form is converted into a request and automatically sent to the appropriate reviewer.
3. Centralize all reimbursement activity
Finance teams that receive a high volume of reimbursement requests, or that receive requests through multiple channels, can make their work easier by centralizing them in a single source of truth.
By integrating a business process automation tool into your existing tech stack, you can create a seamless user experience for employees and consolidate all your reimbursement data into a single platform.
Centralizing your reimbursement requests also makes it easy to view the status and volume of all requests from a single dashboard and automatically pull reports to analyze whether process improvements are necessary.
4. Automate repetitive tasks
Bringing automation into your reimbursement workflow offers three critical advantages:
- It reduces the amount of time your team spends on redundant tasks.
- It increases the accuracy of your work by eliminating errors that occur during duplicative data entry.
- It leads to faster response times from your team.
With low-code, your team can modify the reimbursement process quickly without having to wait on the IT team for even minor adjustments. Since low-code automation relies on a drag-and-drop interface, any permissioned user can make adjustments as they are needed.
Automation also helps standardize your processes, which makes it easier for IT to enforce security and compliance requirements.
5. Add visibility
One of the easiest ways to improve employee experiences is by helping them help themselves. Give employees a single online portal where they can:
- Access documents and read your reimbursement policy.
- Submit requests for reimbursement anytime, from anywhere.
- Track the status of their requests.
6. Measure and modify
One of the perks of standardizing your requests is that you now have access to a consistent, centralized set of data. Monitor expenses as they flow through your process and provide a snapshot of those expenses anytime it’s needed. Build custom dashboards that give leaders access to data, and generate reports that help drive business strategy.
Your dashboard can also help you identify bottlenecks and opportunities for process improvement based on your KPIs or feedback from employees. If your process management tool has low-code capabilities, any permissioned user can modify processes in real-time, using a drag-and-drop interface.