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Keeping key travel staff in uncertain times

Flexibility, recognition and reward are the keys to retaining key travel industry staff, according to the experts. For travel agencies, particularly smaller ones, staff expertise and dedication are crucial assets. Some staff turnover is inevitable – the secret is to plan for it, reports PETER NEEDHAM.

Sandra Chiles, managing director of inPlace Recruitment, is an expert in the field of staff retention. The privately owned Australian recruitment agency she founded in 1981 has provided professional recruitment services to Australia’s travel and tourism industry for more than three decades.
“Although we had a temporary lull during the GFC, we are still in a very candidate-short market,” Chiles reports. “I believe this is going to continue for the long term. In that environment it’s important for employers to put into place practices that are going to retain their most valuable asset.”
Cultivating a rewarding work environment.
“Too often, employers value their staff but don’t actually tell them,” Chiles notes. “It’s very important to recognise them. Recognition can be as simple as saying: ‘Thank you. Job well done. Really appreciate what you’ve done”.
Giving staff the opportunity for further training, or supporting them in a mentoring program through TIME (Travel Industry Mentoring Experience) is another way of saying thanks. It’s ideal for up-and-coming young management.
Money, in the form of salary increases or bonuses, also has a role, but isn’t as simple as it seems. While monetary recognition is sometimes appropriate, “it doesn’t actually apply to the variety of roles we have in the industry”, Chiles says. She points out that people look upon money as a right, something they have earned, in the sense of “I’ve reached my target and therefore I’m entitled to it.”
“But if an employer comes up and says, ‘job well done, congratulations, really appreciate it’ – that’s something that is outside of a right. Praise and recognition of your contribution to the company’s success are very important.”
Staff turnover is a commercial fact of life. For people to move up through the industry they sometimes need to move. “Employers should not regard it as a negative, but should make it part of their planning,"Chiles advises.
Companies also gain by hiring employees who have been in other companies. “It is better for our industry if people stay within the industry and move, rather than leave the industry. If they leave then we’ve lost that knowledge.” Finally, flexibility is a key motivator. For mothers with young children and for many other workers, flexible working hours are essential. To retain staff, particularly mature and senior employees, make sure your business offers flexibility. Introducing a roster that compels people to work shifts they find difficult will make them feel less valued. They will plan to seek an employer who appreciates them and who will be more flexible. 

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Written by: Peter Needham
Published: 31 August 2012

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