Staff development: an easy cut today, competitive disadvantage tomorrow!
16 February 2012
I know budgets are tighter than ever, that every spare dollar or euro counts, that instant ROI is the demand of bosses all around the globe, so I suspect that this month’s Presidential Message won’t be universally popular! But it needs to be said! All too often as I travel in different countries representing ICCA I hear from members that training and staff development budgets are taking one of the biggest hits; far too frequently I hear that these essential resources have been eliminated altogether, especially for more junior staff.
At the same time, one of the clearest competitive differentiators in today’s flat world, where almost every destination has great infrastructure and attractions, is the quality of key personnel. And what do we mean by “quality”? Not just individuals who are adequately trained to carry out the functional requirements of their job, but motivated staff who are empathetic and able to understand and anticipate clients’ often complex objectives and needs; who genuinely understand their destination’s or company’s unique strengths, how they compare to rivals, and how to overcome relative disadvantages. They should be aware of a wide range of technical issues, from how to set up a hybrid meeting to how to deliver a seamless WiFi experience; should understand where they fit into their destination team, or even how to coordinate and motivate that team; they need to have great communication and bidding skills; and know how to sell in a sophisticated and intelligent way!
None of this happens automatically, which is why I am so strongly opposed to the trend I’ve seen to cut back so dramatically on training, and especially on those programmes which are designed to develop staff in a more strategic manner. There was a time not so long ago when every junior manager would be expected to have a personal development plan, and there was an expectation that they would undertake regular educational activities which enhanced and expanded their skill-set. In many other industries this is still the case. I believe that our industry needs this investment just as much as other fields, and more so today than ever!
One very practical step that ICCA members can take is to sign up one or more of their front-line staff for ICCA’s Research, Sales & Marketing Programme, which takes place in Bregenz in Austria this June. Registration is already open, and participation isn’t just great for the delegates you send, it’s also one of the best ways to safeguard your company’s or destination’s long-term competitive advantage!