There’s a common concern that as professionals from older generations wrap up their careers, the corporate travel profession won’t find enough younger talent to fill all those positions. Many expect the deficiency to hit both travel agents and corporate managers. Travel industry veteran Vic Pynn is focused on addressing the problem. He’s worked for American Express, TRX and Amadeus, and as a professional coach and mentor. Here he raises the issue of attracting and retaining travel industry talent and goes a step further by urging closer consideration on how to develop tomorrow’s leaders.
For the past two decades, I have attended the Global Business Travel Association convention and other travel industry conferences, and they only seem to get bigger and better over time. This year in San Diego, more than 6,000 people came together to learn, connect and address new industry challenges. Heading home, I reflected upon how dynamic the travel industry had become. That constant dynamic of change and complexity keeps travel industry professionals engaged, energized and wanting to stick around.
Listening to the speakers at the sessions, I sensed that our industry is entering a period of unprecedented complexity. On the technology front, we see IATA’s New Distribution Capability changing how and what we distribute to end buyers. Artificial intelligence is playing a greater role in marketing to and servicing the end traveler. Duty of care has become more essential with today’s globe-trotting road warriors. Agency consolidation is happening at a faster pace, which complicates the integration of technology.
Driving all of these changes are the travelers themselves who expect and demand that technology will continue to serve them more effectively and efficiently.
All of these changes prompt me to ask three rhetorical questions:
1) How are we doing at attracting future leaders? We must ask ourselves if our industry is investing enough time and money attracting fresh, new talent that is skilled and able to solve problems using the latest technologies. Put simply, are we building a fresh “bench” of future leaders that can effectively lead our industry forward?
2) How will we pass the baton to the next generation? Our industry’s aging population is a major challenge we must address now. Current leadership teams must ensure that their organizations are creating the right cultures that attract and retain skilled professionals to drive future leadership. The next organizational cultures will be more complex than anything we have seen in the past, due to the rapid rise of technology and the merging of multiple generations (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z).
3) Are we fostering strong career development cultures? This includes identifying high potential employees and ensuring we provide learning experiences that enable them to take on senior roles when required. GBTA has begun this journey with its Ladders mentoring program. After several years in the works, it is becoming an outstanding model that sets up young, future leaders for success. As this program evolves, we should look to it as a “best practice” that other organizations across the industry can replicate.
In summary, I believe now is the time for our industry to step back, look, listen and prioritize talent attraction, growth and retention across this industry we all love. As today’s senior leaders, we are responsible for ensuring that tomorrow’s talent is ready to lead the way forward.
So the final questions become, are we ready to forge our industry’s future the right way? Looking ahead, how can we improve how we invest and grow future industry leaders?