October 17, 2021

Prioritising people

People are at the heart of the onboard sector. Mike Pooley, of The Hayward Partnership, explores how we can best support our workforce talent post-pandemic and beyond

Our industry has been having a pretty rough ride. Redundancies and furlough, budget cuts and restructuring have dominated the past year so, as we recover, how do we show its value and the opportunities for the people who remain and how do we best support the remaining talent pool?

It’s a broad topic but as an industry veteran (sadly undeniable!) and a real-time mentor, coach and advisor, I will focus on two key elements among the many: company culture and inspiring our next generation.

Onboard Hospitality is already focused on these key subjects as part of its far-reaching Get Onboard Now! initiative which includes a proactive PEOPLE Action Group, which I am privileged to chair. The kick-off meetings have been refreshing and inspiring, establishing a collaborative team that is willing to give its free time and set the ball rolling on a wide range of initiatives. These are all people established in our sector and ready to champion progress, sponsor debate on recruiting and career choices, support leadership training, knowledge transfer and skills retention, as well as wellbeing – at work and across the travel experience – as awareness of healthier lifestyles and allergens impact the supply chain and airlines alike. 

Company cultures and next generation development concerns were well debated in the forum – as they are too in academic institutions, large commercial organisations, and those small/ medium-sized enterprises I work with regularly – as all do their very best to navigate the impact of the pandemic and clear a path to recovery.

Healthy culture

Looking ahead, one thing is ever certain, that the best business plans, strategies and opportunities will always require some magic, genuine inspiration, and good luck. But at the same time, nothing is deliverable without a large investment of human energy, commitment and, on occasion, tears to achieve excellent results. 

The rules of workplace engagement for these resources have been re-written in the past 18 months with the boundaries between work and home increasingly blurred. For many, expectations on returning to work have changed and employers have to be ready with new parameters to apply and eventually embed industry-wide. 

Leaders need to invest in and recruit people to do their very best. Managers need to be motivating minds and developing skills to ensure staff deliver their full potential. Only a healthy supportive culture ensures organisational heads, department leaders and individuals want to come to work and find an employment environment which nurtures talent, harnesses the strength of collective accountability, and encourages creative licence to reboot and go again! 

The big question is: Can we feel optimistic that globally our industry is ready to address the challenging transformational market factors we now face? In my view there has never been a more important time to do our absolute best for those most vital agents of change, our people.    

The next generation

And that brings me to the second key challenge – inspiring the next generation. It is a sharp reality that many of those now charged with driving onboard change and a return to profits represent the new generation of managers and leaders. These professionals are the future our sector will rely and, they need investment in the form of management development, mentoring and above all future-proofing. It is their experiences, and training given now that will develop and build legacy and reputations. These in time will cement the next line of succession. But do we know enough about these people? Do we listen to them, understand how they see the world, how they view travel and feel about committing to careers in our sector?  

Next-Gen Forum    

The PEOPLE Action Group felt we were not, in general, sufficiently tuned into this next generation and the value they can add to the recovery debate, so one new feature of the Onboard Hospitality Get Onboard Now! campaign is the Next-Gen Forum to capture the views of newcomers and help develop industry talents. The group will provide insights through their own lived experience, sharing their ideas on how we recover from the pandemic and identifying the areas they see as ripe for progress and change. 

Onboard Hospitality is now providing a platform for this next generation of leaders and industry converts, encouraging them to speak up on how we should address the changing times.

 The forum will also share views on how the industry can best support their career aspirations and life choices, and build networks between established players and newcomers. As businesses looking to recruit the best young talent we need to fully understand how rapid and seamless transformation has to be to retain Next-Gen interest and meet their expectations both as employees and as travellers.      

The campaign aims to bring together voices from across the sector including recruiters, inflight teams, mentors, designers, market analysts, and trend spotters. There will also be contributions and involvement from graduate trainees, corporate human resources leaders, scholarship awardees and hospitality students. 

The goal is to help build an industry the next generation is excited to be a part of. An industry fit for purpose with companies peopled by talent that can set the pace of future change in our industry just as it is being viewed through a new world lens. Watch this space.

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