How to retain tech talent

Charlotte Lamp Davies, principal consultant at A Bright Approach, offers her take on how travel businesses can attract and keep skilled IT workers.

Those of us involved in travel tech hear lots about choosing the right APIs, user interfaces and the correct inventory and content. But what about getting the right people? And once you’ve got them, how do you keep them?

The topic of “recruitment and retention” came up at the C-Suite Question Time I moderated at Travel Technology Europe last week. The top-line takeaway was that IT people, if we can call them that, want to stretch themselves and to be of value to the business, not just the IT department. They also want to work on new tech. Put them to work on old platforms and they soon lose interest.

Amadeus is one of Europe’s biggest tech companies, which just so happens to be in travel. Clare de Bono, its director of product and innovation, talked about the draw of Amadeus’s enterprise partnerships with some of the biggest global names in tech, names which its IT staff want to get close to.

But it’s not only about working with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azures of the world, as well as start-ups and scale-ups. Amadeus wants its teams to know that they are working on something important, something that matters. This approach to internal PR is something smaller travel companies can adapt for themselves and something which two of the other panellists talked about.

Emil Majkowski from Rentals United, a B2B software provider for the short-term rentals market, has a cross-company culture that allows and encourages business people to talk to the techies. It must be working – the five-year-old business recently became one of the first global preferred partners for Airbnb – a win celebrated I’m sure with equal vigour by the tech and business teams alike.

Inside track

Elsewhere, Simon Hamblin from dnata Travel talked the talk for having a feedback process in place so that the back and forth between the tech and business teams are fast and formalised.

But Hamblin also said he needs his tech people to have transferable skills, seeing as his CTO role covers 25 brands. But with all sectors interested in having multitasking and multiskilled talent, competition is intense.

Telling a compelling story during the recruitment phase is a technique Costa Coffee is using to great effect. Its chief information officer, Phil Scully, talked about how the digital expectations of the corporate and the consumer are aligned. Reducing transaction times across owned and franchised stores at various locations is a great example of how tech talent sits in the middle of corporate success and customer satisfaction.

Taking one step back, tech is helping to get the right people into the business in the first place. Suzie Thompson, vice president of marketing, distribution and management at Red Carnation Hotels, said that artificial intelligence (AI), in its broadest sense, is helping the business recruit more effectively.

Her suggestion that team transformation is a vital component of a wider digital transformation is worth highlighting. She cited the ongoing team changes within her own organisation as a vital component of change management, adding that helping with the overall cultural shift in the business was one of her biggest achievements.

The misperception of the IT team as a bunch of badly dressed geeks with no social skills who do their own thing in a dark room in the basement only exists in out-of-date sitcoms. Today’s IT professionals in travel want to be part of the bigger picture, want their ideas to be listened to and want to be challenged. Creating the right internal culture for your tech team to operate at their full potential is a prerequisite for any successful travel company. What does your business do to attract and retain great talent?

Travel Technology Eeurope C-Suite Question Ttime

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