Collective Expertise: Our People

“We all live and love the travel business.” This was the internal slogan used for the purchase of destination management services provider GTA in 2011, Kuoni’s biggest ever acquisition. It was also one of the many positive reactions given in Kuoni’s first ever global employee survey, which was conducted in nine languages and various cultures at the end of 2010 / beginning of 2011. Employees were given the opportunity to give detailed feedback on their working environment, their colleagues, the company’s management, the work processes used at Kuoni, and their own level of satisfaction with their current job.

The majority of employees who delivered detailed information about their level of satisfaction view Kuoni as an inspirational company. They would recommend it to friends and acquaintances and they very much appreciate working together with their Kuoni colleagues. All of this input and the finalised results were presented to staff and management in early 2011. The feedback not only helped Kuoni identify its strengths and weaknesses more accurately and to optimise its efficiency, but also enabled each management team to define and implement concrete followup measures. The resulting focus topics subsequently defined and supported by HR for the whole group are: Communication, Recognition, Learning & Developing and Career Opportunities.
Under “Communication”, activities include regular updates from the Senior Executives using a variety of channels, such as town hall events, discussions and “CEO round tables”. In an effort to increase employees’ access to and interaction with management, Group CEO Peter Rothwell and members of the Executive Board travel to units anywhere in the world on a frequent basis. These dialogues have received very positive feedback; they have helped strengthen and deepen the relationship with the senior management and will continue to do so in 2012.
Recognition of its people is another area where employees saw room for improvement. As a result, a Recognition tool-kit providing information, tips and tools has been launched to help managers practise good leadership and show the necessary appreciation on a daily basis. The tool-kit is based on the four principles of good daily leadership practices: Feedback, Coaching, Individual Recognition and Team Recognition. In 2011 it was cascaded and implemented through the divisional HR organisations in the different units.
The Kuoni Corporate Academy has been set up to address the third focus topic, Learning & Developing/Career Opportunities. The Academy is Kuoni’s global training and developing framework, readying people for management roles, supporting managers in their efforts to build strong performance and enhancing their ability to drive strategy.
In addition, Kuoni Switzerland, which belongs to the Outbound Europe Division, has committed to be the industry’s largest training company for apprentices in Switzerland. The so-called “Trainee Navigator”, an innovative and integrated programme for the development of apprentices, was set up in 2009. During the three-year apprenticeship, methods such as e-learning, classroom learning, case studying and coaching are applied in order to enrich the curriculum with industry knowledge and sales know-how. The programme has proved successful: the graduates of Kuoni Switzerland achieve in 2011 the best grades in the industry. Within the course of the HR transformation project which took place in 2011, the whole retail sales organisation in Switzerland was transformed from a product-oriented department into a sales-oriented organisation with a focus on customer needs. In addition, new sales roles (Travel Consultant, Travel Expert and Customer Advisor), sales skills, bonus systems and management structures were implemented. All sales managers were trained to develop high-performance teams in line with these new elements. Today’s standardised sales organisation is enabling Kuoni to focus as much as possible on customers, work more cost-effectively, guarantee quality and facilitate an increase in sales.
Numerous activities associated with the acquisition of GTA were carried out in two phases. Phase 1 – pre-acquisition: a joint team of GTA and Kuoni employees prepared everything needed for the day of the announcement and the time immediately afterwards: announcements and webcasts from the leadership teams, a welcome booklet for all staff, dedicated intranet pages, as well as town-hall sessions and roadshows in Tokyo, Dubai, London and Zurich. In phase 2 an integration programme was launched within the Destinations division (today: Global Travel Services (GTS) Division). The aim was to ensure that the talented travel professionals at both Kuoni and GTA were kept up-to-date about the ongoing integration. Task forces were formed to identify collaboration and integration opportunities, as well as to learn about the two companies' processes and policies. A sharp focus was always kept on transparency so that similarities and differences could be identified properly. Care was taken from the outset to make the best possible use of synergies. An integration employee survey was conducted in November 2011. All employees whose roles changed due to integration measures were informed in stages by 31 December 2011 at the latest, and transitioned to the integrated structure.
At VFS Global and Kuoni India, which are both part of the Emerging Markets & Specialists Division, in 2011 a lot of hard work was invested in the further development of globally applicable HR rules and standardised processes. Kuoni India also launched an initiative to encourage even greater commitment among employees, as well as a management model for the four-stage employee lifecycle HIAR (“Hire – Aspire – Admire – Retire”). A skills gap analysis across various management levels was carried out on the basis of our competence model and an external benchmark; various measures were introduced to ensure future implementation of the strategy from the HR side. The aim is to keep employees engaged, to improve productivity and to drive people’s transition from one role to the next. The skills map, which was tracked through a series of touch points, helps the HR team clarify stages and responsibilities more effectively, as well as close any gaps. In the fast growing travel market in India, there is a huge demand for talent, but this talent is not readily available. Consequently, VFS Global puts an emphasis on its talent management, offering ongoing internal educational and management development programmes in order to train the best and develop further skills. In addition to normal classroom training courses, more and more online training sessions are being conducted. Thanks to its excellent internal training VFS Global is renowned for having knowledgeable and experienced employees. Although fluctuation is very low, VFS Global used various HR tools and processes in 2011 to identify future leaders. These people are then helped by rotation programmes through appropriate internal roles to gain further experience and knowledge. However, strong growth means that the company also recruits a lot of external talent. Compensation and benefits have been developed to offer attractive expat benefits and to ensure that the company always compares well to other local businesses seeking to recruit newly qualified staff.
The measures summarised here that were taken in the Human Resources field in 2011 will continue to ensure in coming years that Kuoni’s employees include the most talented specialists in the industry as well as outstanding managers.