Hoda Lacey's column (Travel Weekly August 9) on the importance of continuous improvement training struck a particular chord with me.
Too many years ago to think about I entered the travel industry as a 'trainee' with ILG. All five fresh-faced graduates chosen for the scheme were expecting a programme of development, feedback and measurement, designed to equip us for management roles to come.
The reality was different. We were dropped into various arms of the organisation with no clear explanation of our roles. We were inevitably viewed with extreme suspicion by our workmates. We were know as 'the students' even after 18 months on the scheme. We all left.
Now I am all in favour of creating the right environment for qualified, enthusiastic junior management, but all companies need to be sure that they allow for continuous improvement before deciding that a graduate (or any management trainee) scheme is simply a good thing.
Experience has to be blended with academic achievement. In my areas of sales and marketing for example, I am always comfortable recruiting candidates who have spent some time either overseas with a tour operator or have worked in a call centre or retail environment. Exposure to the sharp end of managing customer expectations is an invaluable lesson at all stages of management.
There is a responsibility for every organisation within the travel industry to ensure that all new entrants are provided with just such an appropriate blend of experience.
At Airtours, we are determined to address this problem through our development programme of 'company values'. By training all employees to be organised and professional, or friendly and enthusiastic throughout their working lives, we are creating consistent standards of behaviour, which will in turn create even higher standards of product delivery. This might sound like I have taken a management handbook and swallowed it whole. Nothing could be further from the truth - I would still rather read a Grisham than a Gates, believe me!
But the negative experience of being dropped in at the deep end makes you realise that there must be a better way to attract and retain management in the future. Valuing your workforce is a great place to start.
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