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Travel News South Africa

Attracting new talent: Building a robust DEI approach into your travel programme

Ryan Silberman, Group CEO at Webfluential, was recently quoted as saying that top performers in South Africa have started leaving their jobs to work for themselves and consult back to their previous employer, on their own terms. Very often, they also explore opportunities abroad.
Source: Supplied
Source: Supplied

So, what’s the secret for employees wanting to attract promising new talent or retain valuable employees in South Africa? A strong company culture, good salaries, flexibility and growth opportunities are a great start. But there’s more, according to Bonnie Smith, GM FCM Travel. "It’s important to offer unique benefits that enhance the employee’s quality of life, like travel, and include a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)."

"Travel in itself promotes diversity and inclusion as employees get to explore new cultures and develop into global citizens,” says Smith. “But there’s more. Business travel after the pandemic has fundamentally changed. Although the emergence of virtual meeting platforms has certainly not replaced corporate travel, trips have become more intentional. Corporates are carefully scrutinising and re-evaluating the need for travel. Very often, that means that only upper management is allowed to hop on a plane to travel the world. Therefore, travel has become a powerful incentive and a clear indication that the employee is important and valued."

DEI initiatives build a sense of trust and belonging for employees in the workplace. The same approach needs to be applied to business travel. Recent research shows that while most employees say their organisation emphasizes diversity and inclusion, one in five cannot point to anyone who demonstrates its importance through actions. Moreover, 75% of employees feel that the current diversity programmes in place at their company deliver no personal benefits for them.

By incorporating DEI principles in your travel programme, you can make the concept of DEI more tangible to employees says Smith. A simple example is to include special consideration for LGBTQ+ travellers in the travel programme.

A recent poll conducted by Business Travel Show Europe revealed that three-quarters (66 %) of programmes don’t make provision for the LGBTQ+ community. More than half of companies don’t have special conditions in place for solo women. Also, people with accessibility requirements are left in the dark with 41% of travel programmes not mentioning them.

Smith explains that it’s crucial that companies actively engage with their travellers to understand their unique travel requirements. These travel requirements then need to be incorporated into the travel programme. LGBTQ+ travellers may face increased safety risks in specific destinations, solo women might have clear preferences when it comes to their hotel’s location and travellers with accessibility challenges might need mobility assistance at the airport. By including their specific requirements in the travel policy, companies can create a more inclusive work environment.

Attracting, retaining talent

DEI is not a new concept for attracting and retaining talent, but it has received a lot more attention in the past few years. During a recent and ground-breaking travel conference, Th!nk, organised by FCM, Carol Fergus, director global travel, meetings and ground transportation at Fidelity International, explained that the pandemic has opened more doors and has given previously disadvantaged people more opportunities and visibility.

Fergus warned that new talent is looking at how diverse the organisation is they are wanting to work for. "They want to know companies have DEI measures in place. Young adults care about the environment, they care about inclusivity, and they want to know they’ll have a voice," she said.

For Smith, companies now have the perfect opportunity to update their travel policies. "As business travel picks up and organisations restart their travel in earnest, they should be working closely with their travel management company to ensure that their policy is fit for purpose. This includes new thinking around issues like sustainability and DEI."

According to EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined survey, 54% of workers would quit their jobs if the company was not flexible in meeting their personal or work-life needs.

It has been more than a year since the ‘Great Resignation,’ which turned the global workforce on its head, and employees worldwide left their jobs en masse to look for a more fulfilling work-life balance, with more resignations on the cards.

The result? Employers are bending over backwards to attract and retain talent. Employees have been spoiled with perks ranging from extra leave days to free massages, luxury watches, shopping trips, and new cars.

A risky approach, according to Smith. "Flashy perks are a quick fix and are not necessarily the best way to attract and retain talent. Instead, build an inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued,” she says. "Show that you’re willing to invest in your employees and that you want to create a long-term growth plan for them."

South Africa has not seen the same extent of resignations as the rest of the world. With South Africa’s unemployment rate at record levels, companies do not immediately fear losing unskilled labour. That doesn’t mean South African employers can sit back and relax. Highly-skilled South Africans continue to look for new opportunities beyond the walls of their companies and the borders of the country.

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