recruitmentBy Louise Wallace

Recruitment ain’t easy, and it costs more than most employers care to admit. But many business owners are failing miseraby in their attempt to recruit and retain the right people for the job.

Australian professional services firm PwC claims that almost one quarter of all Australians who get a job will quit within a year – 23% of all new hires to be precise. It is an eye-opening figure, especially when you consider that the Netherlands sees only 4% of new recruits throw in the towel within the first year.

According to PwC, job descriptions that promise more than they deliver are the main reason why staff pull the pin, along with Australia’s low unemployment rate that almost promises another job is sitting in the pipeline. PwC also issued a rather startling figure in its 2014 Adapt to Survive report, claiming that poor recruitment is costing Australian companies as much as $3.8 billion in lost productivity and $385 million in avoidable recruitment costs. Workplace Info also estimates that recruitment mishaps can cost employers up to two thirds of an employee’s annual salary by the time recruitment, interviewing time, training and productivity losses are taken into account. That’s a whopping $40,000 for an employee on a $60K pay package.

Explaining the ballooning concerns over staff retention to travelBulletin in more detail, Aspirations Consulting director Judith O’Neill said the travel industry has been plagued by retention issues, largely because increasing number of smaller Australian agencies are simply unable to offer the career prospects of larger companies. And then there’s the topic of remuneration which has consistently fallen short of the national average in some sectors – but that’s an issue for another day. And much like PwC, she says recruitment blunders can chew through time, taking up to six months to get new employees up to speed.

Interestingly, O’Neill said one of the biggest problems within the travel industry is the lack of clarity when it comes to job descriptions. In essence, employers don’t set out clear parameters on what employees are expected to do, leaving staff scratching their head for answers. “Managers often don’t have a clear indication of what they want employees to do, and yet staff have to understand what they’re doing to enjoy the job,” O’Neill said, adding that it’s common for staff in retail and wholesale to be confused by notions that their role involves sales.

AA Appointments managing director Adriana D’Angelis also explained that perceptions within the industry are shifting, and staff now have greater expectations than the candidates of yesteryear. According to D’Angelis, the average length of time in travel industry roles has decreased from three to two years, and more people are leaving the industry, lured by the more lucrative pay of other sectors. Younger staff are also expecting to see results earlier on in their career, she added.

“Newer entrants to the travel industry tend to have higher expectations and move more often than those who are passionate about travel. A lot of them think that if they’ve done a degree they should be in a higher position, and they’re not willing to stay,” she told travelBulletin.

It’s a trend that has been noticed right across the board, with D’Angelis claiming it’s not uncommon for younger staff to consider moving jobs within the first six months because they feel their current role marks the “end of the line”. But before employers admit defeat to the ever demanding workforce, D’Angelis said employers have a very significant role to play in recruiting good staff and, more importantly, getting them to stay.

In her view, employee engagement is at the heart of the solution. “Young staff tend to leave because they want to learn and see where their career will take them, so employers should engage with them at the induction stage and show them the longer term career prospects,” she said. D’Angelis also stressed the need to provide clear steps for progression and let staff know that they have been earmarked for a promotion. “The idea is to give them a big picture view. A lot of staff don’t see that – they think ‘this is it, I have to move on’.”

Certainly, career progression comes at a different pace for large companies and smaller travel outfits, but O’Neill explained that there is no reason that smaller operations can’t keep staff on the books. The key, she says, is strong leadership, good management, and a genuine interest in staff.

“Larger companies would do well to show staff clear career paths, while smaller companies can do one-on-one performance appraisals and ask staff what they want from their job. Find out if they are happy, what they want to do, and give them famils. Staff need to be incentivised,” she said. “Smaller companies can absolutely do these things, but they really need to keep people motivated and know what they are doing.” And when smaller companies run out of avenues – which is inevitable in most cases – D’Angelis suggests giving staff more responsibilities: “If they are great at e-marketing, get them involved. Get them to write blogs or help in other aspects of the business – staff love that stuff.”

In an ideal world, companies of any size would employ staff early in their career, shape them to the company mould, and they would be rewarded with several years of service. Some companies, like American Express and CTM, are shining examples of the golden standard, with staff often staying on the books for decades on end. But staffing issues can and do go pear shaped – often. In D’Angelis’ view, recruiting people with the right attitude that aligns with the company culture trumps experience in most cases.

“You can’t teach attitude, so it may be better to hire a junior consultant with the right attitude rather than someone with five years of experience as they’ll last longer,” she said. Both D’Angelis and O’Neill agree that the romance of working in the travel industry is still there, but staff are more discerning when it comes to career progression. Rather than moaning in unison about staffing struggles, both agree that the best course of action is to be realistic about the challenges, keep staff happy, and always have a Plan B.


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