As pent-up demand for travel begins to materialize, a major challenge for the industry has become all too evident – a critical labor shortage.
The war for talent rages on across many industries, but for the travel sector it is especially challenging, as workers flee the front line and seek more stable industries.
While there is no silver bullet, there are several important actions that organizations need to take, including looking at the role that technology can play in solving the challenge of talent scarcity. Artificial intelligence and automation are critical when it comes to questions about how to reimagine the workforce while also maintaining growth, by helping make processes and systems more efficient and helping anticipate changes in labor.
The World Economic Forum estimates that for workers seeking to remain in their current roles, 40% of core skills will change by 2025 and roughly half of all employees will need reskilling, as the new book “The Automation Advantage” points out. AI and other automation technologies can play a valuable role in helping organizations enhance the work that their existing employees perform, reskill workers so they can take on higher value roles, and recruit, retain and develop new, much-needed sources of talent.
Before the pandemic, the travel industry was a leader in hiring women, and particularly women from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Millions of people left the travel industry in 2020 and a disproportionate number of them were women. As businesses grapple with how to replace them, there comes the opportunity to rebuild for a more inclusive, diverse and equitable future, rather than simply rehire.
Accenture research shows that travel leaders can unlock up to 5x more staff potential by better managing everyday work experiences. These changes are particularly impactful on gender diversity – with women unlocking 4x of their potential if daily experiences are managed better. Engaging women within the workforce can ultimately improve productivity across the wider travel industry. What’s more, employers will benefit from retaining staff as the cost of losing an employee can equate to tens of thousands of dollars.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
Harnessing the potential of the female workforce is where new technology can make a real impact. Perhaps most obviously, technology has given millions of workers the option to work from home and still maintain high productivity, allowing parents to juggle childcare arrangements with senior roles and removing barriers to women re-entering the workforce. For front line workers in hotels, new AI technology to handle predictive workforce scheduling can take into account anticipated demand and workers’ desired (part time) schedules to find the right match.
Turn to tech
Some travel leaders are already pioneering new schemes to use technology to help women integrate into their workforce – particularly through training.
For example, Hilton Hotels is offering virtual training programs to ensure that parents returning from parental leave can get up to speed as quickly as possible. The hotelier has also partnered with Guild Education to provide employees with new educational credentials, to help promote career advancement.
Harnessing the potential of the female workforce is where new technology can make a real impact.
Elsewhere, FutureofU: Skills. Jobs. Growth. is a group of businesses working together to help women return to work after having children, by providing future-ready training in key technological areas like digital, cloud and data science roles.
More broadly, digital training programs can offer uniquely accessible cross-training, providing new female joiners with relevant skills to exceed in and expand their roles. Accenture has embraced virtual reality (VR) to do this and is deploying 60,000 VR headsets for immersive learning, onboarding and more. Accenture has created VR environments, which it calls “The Nth Floor,” enabling employees around the world to meet, learn or socialize as teams.
There is also inspiration for the travel industry outside itself, with many employers using technology to encourage women to return to work. For example, Target has pledged that by 2025 100% of suppliers will have policies and programs to advance gender equity. To deliver this, it is rolling out more equitable digital systems for hiring, effective anonymous channels for incident reporting and access to gender-responsive health information.
The tools to support women re-entering the travel workforce are ever more available and the business case is clear. Women account for 80% of travel decisions, so having more women in decision-making positions within travel companies can help create a closer connection with customers. This is particularly poignant at a time when travel companies are seeking ways to improve loyalty and encourage travelers to use their services.
Travel leaders are rightly focused on the re-emergence of their businesses amid ongoing COVID uncertainty, and on delivering the best experience for customers at the right cost.
As they rebuild, wise travel leaders will understand that their company’s success depends on its people. All of its people. Those that embrace technology will be able to attract future talent, provide more interesting roles and in turn build a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and will ultimately emerge as success stories.
About the author...
is senior managing director and head of Accenture’s global travel industry, and Dyllis Hesse
is senior managing director at Accenture