Maintaining New Staff

Did you ever hire an assistant agent you thought would work out really well, but they just never meshed with the office environment? Perhaps they even quit after a few weeks, and no one in the office could quite pinpoint the problem. Ruthanne Terrero, CTC

If you've fallen into this situation, it's possible that a communication breakdown happened long before you knew it. Ask yourself this question: Did it occur because you never really quite had the time to train your new hire properly?

It's so important in today's challenging hiring market that you do everything you can to provide a learning environment for your newest employees. So many of us are so busy that it's quite simple to overlook the most obvious things. It's easy to hire a new person and then put them right into a sink-or-swim situation, all because we don't have the time to mentor them properly.

If you suspect this may be an issue in your office, I suggest setting aside 10 minutes each morning to spend time with your newest employees. Make it a set meeting that occurs every day (or if you have more than one new individual, give each of them an assigned day or two of the week to meet with you). In the informal meeting, ask your employees what they are working on—it's likely you'll be able to give them a good dose of insight that will truly help them with a trip they are planning for a client. Then ask them what's on their minds. Don't worry, it may be something simple enough. If they're entry level, they could be stressing about the fact that they want to toss the 2005 travel brochures from the back-room cabinet but have been afraid to ask because it seems too mundane. Or, they may have a brilliant idea they've been waiting to run by you, but are afraid to approach you because you have so much on your plate.

Also take the time to give them projects that will help them grow. If they've booked vacations for clients already, challenge them to make the next trip they plan more sophisticated by giving them research to do on suppliers they haven't worked with yet.

Malaka Hilton, the owner of Admiral Travel Gallery in Sarasota, FL, has a system wherein each new hire in her office automatically becomes her assistant (unless they're already a full-fledged agent). Under her watch, the assistant eventually grows to agent status. Just last year, one of her former protégés opened a branch office of Admiral Travel in the next town. What's more valuable to your time than training staff to become future partners who will enhance your business?

The goal is to make them feel valued and keep them learning. It's difficult enough to find good agents these days, therefore it's vital that you nurture those that you have.

Other agencies I've spoken with have a buddy system. When new hires start work, they are partnered with a seasoned agent so they can shadow his or her every move. This type of on-the-job experience is priceless.

Alternately, if you are on staff and feel you don't get to speak to your manager enough, "manage up." Assert yourself by requesting just a few moments to go over issues that are important to taking the quality of your work to a higher level. If your office doesn't have a buddy system, request that you be matched with a colleague.

The travel industry is one that can be incredibly entrepreneurial, and those with ambition and great initiative are typically those who find success at a much earlier age than their peers.