We all know that manually approving employee expenses is a pain. Paper receipts need to be filed, expense reports need to be entered into an employee’s record and then finally approved by HR and/or accounting. Without an electronic approval system in place, it can take days or weeks for employees to get their money. This just uses up time and resources—and when you consider how many expenses your average organization processes every year, that adds up fast. 

By adopting an electronic approval system, you can eliminate this manual process and start getting the benefits that come with automating the entire expense reimbursement process. What are some of these benefits? We tell you all about them in this post, along with the best approach to setting up an electronic expense approval system ourselves. 

Step 1: Create Your Expense Report Form

The first step in creating an automated electronic approval system is establishing a template for an employee expense report. What this form looks like will vary from business to business but to be compliant with IRS requirements, it should contain detailed information, such as the amount, date, time, place, and business purpose of each expense. Use an expense form template to ensure that all of the information that must be reported meets tax regulations and remains consistent across all expenses. You should also make sure that your template allows for fully customizable fields, so you can track items such as mileage and itemized receipts, as well.

Step 2: Have a Standardized Approval Workflow

There are a lot of things you can do to make sure your expense reporting process runs smoothly, but the most important is having a solid approval workflow. Even if you’re only tracking expenses at the end of each month, it’s still important that you have an approved process for getting those numbers in order—especially if you work with employees or contractors who aren’t onsite all day every day. And even if your company has a large staff, it’s always good to have an easy way for people to get their expenses approved quickly and easily—and not just so they can spend more money! By creating an approval workflow that is standardized and reproducible, you’ll take confusion out of it and ensure it runs smoothly.

Step 3: Communicate Everyone’s Role in the Workflow

One of the most important things to remember about implementing an electronic approval system for employee expenses is that it’s not just about getting the technology up and running. You need to make sure you’re communicating everyone’s role in the workflow.

Who is responsible for submitting the expense report? What is the responsibility of the person authorizing it? When does the supervisor check its accuracy? What’s the role of payroll/accounting? Make sure everyone understands which part of the process is on them to complete, and who they should be communicating with about any questions or issues along the way.

If your company has multiple locations or multiple departments, make sure you communicate this information across those different groups as well—even if some employees aren’t directly involved in submitting reimbursement requests, they may have a stake in making sure those requests get approved quickly and accurately.

Step 4: Ensure Everyone Can Access the Workflow

As an employer, you want to make sure that all employees are able to access your electronic approval system. If a manager is spending hours each week reviewing paper receipts, it’s easy for them to miss something and then be surprised by a large expense charge on their end. Or if a payroll team member doesn’t have access to the right information at the right time, they might approve an expense that wasn’t actually approved.

To avoid these issues, we recommend that you:

1) Determine how everyone can access the workflow. Some employees may be reviewing paper receipts while others are using software that only works on a desktop; if everyone doesn’t have equal access, your workflow will fall apart. Make sure pathways are clear and unnecessary complications (like using software that doesn’t work well on mobile) are avoided. 

2) Make sure all employees are working off of the same data source. If there is any discrepancy in data, or if someone accidentally approves an expense without approval from management or accounting, there’s no confusion about whether or not it should have been approved. 

Step 5: Have a Post-Approval Plan

Once an expense has been approved, how is the reimbursement issued? Is paying reimbursements a manual process separate from other accounting activities? How quickly do employees receive a reimbursement?

No matter how automated your approval workflow is, reimbursements will still be delayed if there is a bottleneck between approval and payment—your approval workflow needs to include some mechanism for communicating with your payroll/accounting platform. If it’s up to a human to fill the gap, you’ll realize there’s only so much they’re able to do at a time.

If you want to avoid this, we recommend using an electronic approval system that integrates with your existing payroll system. That way, all of the approvals are automatically sent directly into your payroll system which will issue the reimbursement when appropriate.

Step 6: Implement SureMileage into Your Electronic Approval System

Setting up an electronic approval system alone can be daunting. CompanyMileage makes implementing an automated expense report process a breeze from start to finish, so you won’t need to worry about a thing.

When your employees use SureMileage (along with our mobile app, SureMobile), they’re able to log trips and track expenses from anywhere with the help of their smartphones. To get started, you simply import your employees’ information from your accounting or payroll system. You can also add your customer addresses to your Address Book, and determine who has access to which locations. Once you have all your information ready in our system, it’s time to configure custom approval workflows. While the final authorization for reimbursement is approved by the manager, all levels can be tailored to meet your needs and conform to your processes.

When employees log trips from their phones or computers, our system will automatically calculate the fastest route between the beginning and end points of each trip. This means your employees are able to report their expenses more accurately—and it eliminates over reporting, as well! Once an employee submits an expense report, it’s automatically pushed through your designated workflow for review and approval. 

Once an expense is approved, we integrate with your payroll or accounting software to ensure approved requests will always be paid out in a timely manner. Automating your expense approval workflow, when done properly, will save you time, money and resources. One way we make this happen is by offering month-to-month contracts. By only paying for the number of employees using it, you can scale up or down depending on your needs throughout the year. 

To learn more about automating your expense approval system, request a demo with CompanyMileage today.