UK: The latest in a fortnightly series of ENGAGE! webinars, for travel buyers and suppliers of accommodation to corporate travellers, was hosted last week by Mark Harris of the Travel Intelligence Network, focusing on talent this week.
Like the curated ENGAGE! event itself, the webinars bring together the very best from across the travel-buying industry and provide a no-cost digital platform for industry leaders to engage, look to the future and challenge the status quo with their peers, through the sharing of knowledge, live debates and Q&As. The topics offer a snapshot of what is to come at the event, hosted as part of the Urban Living Festival.
The latest edition, entitled “The impact of lost talent in a changing business travel landscape,” focused on how talent leaving business travel can impact the industry and what people can do to find meaningful work.
Joining Harris in the discussion were:
- Dave Clare, The Business Travel Network (runs BTA Cares programme)
- Thomas Mielke, AETHOS Consulting Group (executive search/coaching)
- Claire French, ex-Avis Budget (current looking for new opportunities)
After introductions, the chat was allowed to vote in a poll on whether or not they were worried about their future in business travel. The results, revealed at the end, showed a striking picture: 79 per cent of viewers were worried about their future in the industry.
As someone who had been laid off as a result of COVID, Claire French said that being laid off has a direct, personal impact. The removal of connection with co-workers and the changes in routine personally shocked her, and that it created a grieving process for her.
Dave Clare confirmed the commonplace nature of French’s story, with even furloughed employees feeling a loss of interaction. He highlighted the BTA cares programme, which he helped to run, to help people struggling with unemployment and provide wellbeing support.
Harris then asked Thomas Mielke, a seasoned executive search professional, about the shape of talent, and whether executives came ready for their next opportunity. Mielke highlighted the value of optimism and has emphasized the importance of training programmes, referral schemes and alumni networks for moving executives on to their next role.
Clare replied, saying that the realities of job hunting, such as automated CV keyword scanning, and the length of time since a CV was written, has made many tenured executives fundamentally confused. Mielke said that those hunting for new roles should emphasise transferrable skills and areas of unique ability, such as change management.
He further noted the importance of knowing who would be reading a CV: HR, which demands you standout quickly on your CV, or department heads, who could be accessed through networking.
Taking note of the culling of sales and marketing professionals, Harris asked French whether that strategy was short-sighted. She said that due to the value of sales and marketing professionals when a different business returns, it was short-sighted, but that she understood that the cost base may not be able to support these roles at the moment.
Promoting the value of the relationships that sales professionals create, Clare agreed, also adding that the closeness of the industry would make the rebuilding of relationships post-COVID difficult. Mielke praised companies who created part-time work solutions, saying maintaining in house knowledge is essential for companies looking at repositioning, and attempting to adapt to the new world.
He also added the value of ensuring that a job applicant’s resume reflects the job description, changing the CV to show how your background can help that company. French added that a good cover letter is equally important and allows applicants to highlight their own uniqueness better.
Harris asked the group how a shrinking workforce would impact customer care. Clare replied first, noting that many customers have lost their primary point of contact with a company, adding that a smaller workforce is more stretched, losing out on direct time with customers.
Both French and Mielke echoed this sentiment, noting that customers will consider what their options are when customer care is less prominent. Mielke emphasised keeping individuals who held essential organisational knowledge, and that the HR and business strategies were well aligned.
Harris then opened the floor to questions, with Jo Layton first asking what individuals could do to support colleagues and friends.
Clare talked about the work that The Leisure Guys were doing and saying that the BTA offered a transferrable skills course. Responding to a secondary question about networking, French noted the importance of LinkedIn for both networking and learning additional skillsets. Harris read out a comment, saying that Hugs UK is a well-known network, with an additional commenter noting the organisation provided CV and interview support.
Responding to a question about how to fix knowledge gaps, Mielke noted two strategies. The first, which usually ended poorly, was to throw more work at staff, while the second focussed on strategic action and innovation, and emphasised re-skilling, understanding their talent pool and contextual performance.
Clare reiterated the value of training, noting that new skills will be essential for a changing economy. French noted that while re-skilling is important, much of her time is taken up by parsing through applications and by upgrading her knowledge through webinar viewing, which she noted is equally important. She also added the value of downtime, to help manage the psychological impact of unemployment.
In closing, Harris asked for the panellists to give advice to those who were made redundant. Clare said: “Don’t be ashamed, don’t be embarrassed, talk to as many people as you can, engage as much as you can but know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Mielke advised job seekers to build a board of five to seven people around you to make smart choices, and to be humble, adaptable, focused on the long term and to take time to digest. To finish, French said: “Firstly, it’s not you, it’s your role, and remember that. Secondly, reach out to people, don’t be ashamed and ask for support, it’s there and everyone is there to help you.”
To watch a full recording of the webinar, click here.
The next webinar in the ENGAGE! Series, titled “The Long Road Back” will take place on Thursday, 22nd October from 11-12 BST.
To register, click here.