A quick scan of Travel Manager priorities for 20231 provides a fascinating insight into the role. Alongside the usual matters of cost containment, supplier management and service management, we see a smattering of macro business issues, which wouldn’t look out of place on a CEO’s to-do list. Digitalisation, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion and employee wellbeing. How can it be that a travel team (and often, a single person) can be across all these things? The answer is quite simple. They can’t.
The unique challenge of managing a customer-facing service, which touches a large % of employees, whilst also negotiating and governing over complex contracts with service providers is not new. However, the slew of additional demands on travel teams presents both a challenge and an opportunity to change things up. We’re quite a fan of that here at FESTIVE ROAD, which is why you may have seen our ‘we’re hiring’ badge flashing in recent months, as we support new and existing clients to put together the pieces of their team puzzle.
How are we doing it? Well, the post-pandemic realignment of priorities has led to potential skills gaps across travel teams. At FESTIVE ROAD we are seeing an increasing demand for organisational design support. But it‘s not as simple as just ‘bums on seats’ as travel leaders reassess their team requirements. In the current macro-economic climate, requests for additional headcount may be met with more than a raised eyebrow.
Now is certainly the time to take a step back, review the skills on your team vs. the future needs and highlight gaps. Just as we focus on culture as an essential part of our sourcing process, the same thing applies when finding great resources for our clients. The variety of roles we see on travel teams is really diversifying. A few trends that we have observed:
- A product management approach to travel technology, with a focus on planning, developing and launching technology.
- A brand management approach to communications and engagement – engaging with external PR and ensuring your brand is recognisable and respected internally
- The use of new and more innovative technology in travel learning & development – short, Tik Tok style video clips to engage travellers vs. long documents
- Sourcing managers eschewing the traditional RFP processes to focus instead on focusing on partnerships and co-creation with key suppliers
- A consumer-led approach to customer insights, driving real improvements vs. guesswork around what really matters to your travellers
What does this all mean? Well at FESTIVE ROAD we are hiring more people from outside of the travel industry for starters. They bring fresh perspective, a challenger mindset and it turns out that training them on the travel industry takes effort, but it pays off.
This describes the ‘WHAT’ but the ‘HOW’ is just as important. A forward thinking, consultancy grade mindset is par for the course at FESTIVE ROAD and helps our people to hit the ground running once they land in a client environment.
For smaller teams, I can already hear the cries of, ‘but what about us?’, and I get it. I’ve been there! In fact, I am convinced that the need for such strong buyer-supplier partnerships in corporate travel is borne out of this resource challenge. And your first port of call as a one-person travel team is your TMC account manager. Joint business plans and strategies serve to maximise resources but also to lessen the feeling of being quite so alone! There is more that you can do, but it requires the networking skills of a pro, as you build a team around you, a board of advisors, usually with minimal assistance. Often, the knowledge needed by a Travel Manager exists within their organisation, they just need to know who to ask. So, if you need to build a data strategy, find out who is responsible for this within your organisation and buy them a coffee. If you feel that travel sustainability isn’t being taken seriously enough, go and talk to the individual responsible and understand where travel sits on their roadmap.
Bringing in external resources isn’t always about adding long-term FTE to your program. In fact, injecting short- or mid-term expertise into your organisation can be a great way to get support and broaden the knowledge base of your team.
So, if you’re thinking about your travel management team of the future, the resources and skills challenges you will face and what the best team design is to tackle the future trends let me be your fresh perspective. Put the kettle on, pull up a chair and we’ll design your travel management team of the future…now.