April 18, 2024

Two sides to the story

While many TMCs are struggling to hire new talent, TakeTwo Travel Solutions claims it has a waiting list of people wanting to join its team. We checked in with the company’s Vice President Global Marketing Karen McKenna

Why do you think TakeTwo is bucking the trend when it comes to the talent shortage? 

In short, it’s because we’re a new TMC and we don’t have any baggage left behind by the pandemic. Many business travel professionals were laid off during the lockdowns and subsequently they moved to other sectors. Many have decided to stay in those sectors while those who are coming back have lost trust in their previous employers – who maybe didn’t handle the situation as well as they could have – so, they don’t want to go back to those companies.  

Why do you think the industry is struggling to bring people back? 

My background has involved business travel training and development and I believe a big part of the problem is that historically, and still today, travel companies don’t invest enough in this area. Our sector has never invested enough in training and educating staff to help them transition or progress from one job function to another. Many people who left during the pandemic are now getting that career development in other sectors and probably feel more valued as a result. It’s not just down to salaries, it’s the whole package that’s important.

How are new ways of working impacting the training and development of staff?

Working from home is having a significant impact because it’s so much harder to develop skills when people aren’t working in an office, particularly learning interpersonal and customer service skills. People who are new to the industry don’t want to be stuck at home just doing online training courses. There needs to be a mix of e-learning and face-to-face. It’s so important for them to be alongside other team members, not only to learn the skills but also for team building and camaraderie. For that reason, TakeTwo has taken on new office space in London to complement our Wokingham offices, which came with the acquisition of Eton Travel, as well as new offices in New York and Cork.

What else is TakeTwo doing to ensure it has the best talent going forward?

We’re in the process of developing a graduate scheme and we are already offering internships. For our degree apprenticeships we will be actively targeting 18 to 19-year-old school and college leavers, especially those who are unsure about going to university due to high tuition fees and student debt. This enables them to gain a full undergraduate or master’s degree while they work. It also provides them with the best of both worlds as they will get a head start in their chosen job role, gain a degree and get paid whilst they’re doing it.

The travel industry offers more than travel consultant roles, there are great career opportunities in sales, marketing, business management, finance, technology and HR. We will also offer this opportunity to more mature employees who maybe want to transition to other roles within the company. There is no age limit on who can apply for an apprenticeship.

How is TakeTwo working with colleges and universities to find future talent? 

We are engaging with schools and colleges and apprenticeship training providers and exploring joint marketing opportunities. Equally, we are also keen to bring back displaced employees who want to return to the industry and specifically want to work for TakeTwo. We have a waitlist of staff waiting for opportunities to arise as we are contacted almost daily by people interested in working for us.

What do you believe the industry as a whole must do to attract future talent?

We need to attract more professionals from other professional services sectors, as well as from IT. We also need to be active in visiting colleges, universities and apprenticeship training providers, as well as speaking at their events. The media can play their part too by doing what The Business Travel Magazine is doing with the Business Travel Ambassadors campaign, but also creating more content around what the industry needs to do about training and development. The media needs to run interviews, surveys and polls, create white papers on training and development (or lack of) and use social media.