Performance management is a must for successful travel agencies
By Jorge Fernandez*
WHEN we talk of the art of perform-ance, the first thing that comes to mind is something related to music, dance or the theatre – when the real art missing in many travel agency businesses is the art of performance management.
As business owners or managers we constantly complain about staff not pulling their weight, not producing as much as they can or just not performing.
Often when we turn around and ask staff how they are doing the answer is: “I have no idea” or even worse “just fine thanks”. This situation is a lot more common than you may expect.
In the majority of cases this disparity boils down to the lack of clear expectations being communicated, realistic measurement based targets and a review process to back it all up.
It should be no surprise that consultants or managers find it hard to define whether they are doing well or not if they don’t have a benchmark to compare themselves against. This means having very clear and measurable guidelines such as:
• $10,000 commission earned each month is the minimum target in this business less one month for holidays;
• From when you start it takes three months to get to that level; and
• The average amount of bookings we find is 22 per month at a yield of 11 per cent.
These are the figures we are running at the moment and are considered good. You then also define what is excellent through the top performers’ figures and averages establishing what can be achieved by hard work and/or talent.
Businesses that define expectations clearly have fewer problems with underperformance as staff know from when they start what is expected, what is good and what they need to work on.
You will also find that by communicating these targets and explaining how they can be achieved; your team will get a better understanding of how to do their job well.
Knowledge, regular communication and involvement are very strong motivators for a lot of people. Not many of us like to be left in the dark.
The best business managers also follow through to help their staff be the best they can, by sitting down with them one on one and reviewing their performance. At this stage many of you are gritting your teeth and saying that you don’t have the time, staff hate to feel watched and surely telling them clearly what is expected of them is enough? The simple answer to that is no, it isn’t enough.
Staff deserve to have the person they report to spend 30-45 minutes a month letting them know how they are going.
Highlight and recognise the good, point out the areas that can be improved and organise training to show them how to improve.
Managers or owners deserve the time to find out if the staff are happy, if there is anything that could be done better and to get that all important feedback on how they and the business are going.
The very best businesses have well tailored tools (forms) to run these reviews. Capturing the wealth of information that staff over the years have given as feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Without these tools how can an owner or manager remember all the commitments and follow up, both what they committed to but also their staff commitments?
With a formal review process in place a business can:
• Reinforce the values and standards regularly;
• Support, mentor or train regularly;
• Identify problems earlier and improve staff retention;
• Develop goal programs;
• Reward and recognise good perfor-mance or manage under-performance; and
• Progression plan with staff.
I am unsure of any other organised way to achieve a constantly improving business environment, whether you have a staff of four or 400.
It is no coincidence that most of the productive agencies have a good performance management process in place and know the art of it.
Final Thought: A performance review should be conducted at least annually. Most importantly it should not contain surprises for those being reviewed. By regular catch ups throughout the year they should already know your assessment of their performance.
This is simply a chance to formalise this feedback and review and set goals and areas of responsibility.
*Jorge Fernandez is a senior travel industry consultant at the Resurg Group who has worked in tour operations, wholesale, leisure and retail agencies, consultancy and management, including senior executive roles within online and corporate travel organisations. He has teamed up with the Resurg Group to provide a high end performance management service for their travel industry clients. This includes executive level coaching, performance group facilitation and the development of travel business improvement programs.