Travel & War for Talent

Travel Perk for HR?

There are HR professionals and then are HR professionals on the move. The latter are usually working out of the company HQ in Johannesburg, but you are unlikely to find them at their desk. They have a hidden “travel perk”. As part of their ever expanding job description, these HR professionals are regularly on the move. They must travel to regional offices. You will meet them on flights to Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein and Nelspruit. While they try to schedule their flights during “normal” working hours, their day is a lot longer. They are up at 3am, boarding the flight at 6am and brewing their coffee by 8am. The locals are crawling into the office at this time.

During these visits, the movers are supposed to “move’ the locals to adopt the latest HQ driven programmes. They consult, connect and train line managers and staff. The HR professional is supposed to assure the regional office; that those in the ivory castles, are in touch with their reality on the ground. If they do their job properly, they quickly build a fan base, across provinces and cities. Eventually it doesn’t matter whether their work is valued in HQ. As long as the regional offices have given them a “thumbs up”, they hold the power cards. (Very useful in the event that the HR professional is dismissed and needs to substantiate their performance)

In the war for talent, these HR professionals on the move can provide your organisation with a hidden travel advantage. Due to their frequent flyer status, they can quickly identify and target talented individuals on their local travel.

Travel Stop

A recent example comes to mind – to fly out of OR Tambo International Airport (Domestic Departures), you are likely to make several travel stops. On the way to the airport during peak times, you will stop several times in the snail paced traffic. More stops in the parking lot. While you could use the self-service stations and bag drops, you will definitely have to stop at the security terminals. Well I want you to make a special travel stop after you have collected your baggage. Talent is standing in front of you.

Every day, passengers passing through these terminals stop and ask the travel information desk, for directions. While locals should be familiar with the domestic terminal, tourists struggle to understand the signage and facilities. They are rushing to the boarding gates. They don’t know how to access Wi-Fi. They are looking for the business lounges or toilets.

Travel Desk

After they collect their baggage, they are likely to stop at the Sunglass Hut kiosk. Their kiosk stand is in the direct line of vision for the confused tourist. While the kiosk is well stocked with sunglasses, few tourists are buying. But they stop to ask them for directions. Having observed this interaction on numerous occasions, eventually I managed to chat with Vusi (not his real name!), in between him running the “travel” kiosk, dealing with the odd customer and another tourist.

It turned out that that Vusi spends a great deal of time, helping tourists find their way around the airport. It is not part of his job description. He does not ask or get a travel tip. Vusi could easily refer tourists back to the information desk. Or ignore them. Or worse, place a “We are not the travel  information desk” sign. Or pleased his employer, by trying to sell them a pair of designer sunglasses.

But Vusi consistently goes out of his way to help them. He provides concise responses and makes their domestic departure, that much smoother. I suspect that it is the location plus his warm disposition that attracts tourists day after day.

According to the Sunglass Hut website, “…people want their sunglasses to celebrate their individuality. Sunglasses help you feel cool and confident in your style; they say something about you and are a way of expressing your personality.”

Vusi doesn’t wear sunglasses. But I doubt that needs them. He is already celebrating his individuality through the unpaid work that he does, and creating more goodwill for Sunglass Hut, than they realise.

The seat belt lights have been switched on. My flight from Cape to Johannesburg is landing. Better go, there may be talent standing on the other side. Travel safe!

(HR Future, March 2011)

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