The boss of Kuoni has said the company has had to “shift” its salaries to attract more people to the company, after the Covid pandemic forced many workers to leave the sector.
Managing director Derek Jones discussed the struggles facing recruitment in the industry in a Travel Weekly webcast.
He said that while bookings have been healthy in the first quarter of the year, hiring experienced new employees to fill the void created by the widespread departures has been a challenge.
He said: “To find great people is always difficult. What we’ve found is that some of those great people who were in the sector have gone on to do other things.
“I think quite a lot of those people will one day come back to travel, but they’re still cautious. I’m hopeful that maybe a year down the track we’ll see some of those people return.
“Then there are others who have changed their lifestyle completely and found a different work-life balance, and they’ve got no intention of coming back. They’ve changed their perceptions of work and what it means to them, and I wish them all the best.
“Overall it means the pool we’re fishing in has far fewer fish in it, which makes it difficult.”
Jones added Kuoni has had to re-evaluate its salary structure for retail staff as a result of the pandemic, with a “shift” for both new starters and existing employees.
This comes after he unveiled plans to open more stores across the UK, which will sell both Kuoni holidays and products from third parties.
“We have to think about salary inflation as well,” he said. “People have realised that when they’re expected to work until 10 o’clock at night and travel in and out of a store each day, the value that’s placed on them has gone up, so we’ve seen a requirement in retail to shift our salaries.
“And the challenge then is that you can’t just shift your salaries for your new joiners, you have to go back and look at everyone who has stayed with you throughout the pandemic and make sure they’re rewarded as well.”
Jones said Kuoni has been able to offer more flexibility for head office employees, but that it has been harder to offer the same level of flexibility for the retail workforce, meaning the company has had to “look at it in different ways”.
He is confident Kuoni is a “good employer”, as demonstrated by a recent survey of its staff.
“I think on the scale of things we’re a good employer and always have been,” he said. “People like working for us and that was highlighted in a recent survey across all our staff which we carried out to find out how they’re feeling. Our internal NPS (Net Promoter Score) score is heading towards 60, which shows we take good care of our staff and we do the right thing.
“We have to stay more focused than ever on making sure we get that right and that people want to work for us rather than another travel company.”