Five Steps to Starting a Training Program in Your Office

In our continuing Leadership Series, we wanted to discuss training and motivating your team, and that should include designing a training program.

The term training program is scary to many owners and managers in the travel industry. It’s scary because it may not be your area of expertise and, therefore, is overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. The following five steps will help you get started on your way to developing a robust training program or department for your agency. 

1. Buy-in: Maybe you have been playing around with the idea of creating a more structured training for your office, but just because YOU think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean everyone else in your team agrees. Start by asking your team for their ideas, allow them to be part of the process. Pitch to them your value proposition, why and how this training effort is going to help each person on the team, and what the benefits are.

2. Strategy: Once you get your team on-board and agreeing with you, you quickly need to devise a strategy. A strategy is a solution to a problem. Start by identifying the needs and gaps to get a true idea of what it is you want to accomplish, and how you want to get there. Here are some questions to ask yourself. Who is the training for? Is this just for frontline consultants, or is it companywide? What type of training is needed for each audience? Is this a one-time thing, or is a cultural and growth strategy for your organization? How will you deliver the training: Will it be live, online conferences, or a combination of it all?

3. Resources: As you start to work on your strategy and even on your pitch to your team, resources are going to become a critical component of your plan. Questions to think about are: How big do you want this to be? Meaning, are you looking to hire a training manager, or are you going to use in-house team members?

Tip: Taking producing team members off the phones to deliver training is not always the most valuable decision; using them as mentors might make it more affordable. Look at your other resources, such as your consortia. Most consortia have tremendous amounts of training that you can take advantage of without much effort.

The Travel Institute has turnkey programs ready for those starting new to the industry to executive leadership training. Many of your preferred vendors offer quality educational programs that you simply can include as part of each employee’s growth plan and can be used without any cost.

4. Budget: Resources and budget go hand-and-hand. Understanding your resources and having a strategy will help you create a budget. Items to think about are: Will your training be delivered live/virtually through conferences and third parties? Is this program for frontline agents or for the entire company? Compare hiring a training manager versus using internal staff versus using turnkey third-party content. Or maybe it’s a combination of it all.

5. Policy: Having a policy around training will help you keep your new ideas and strategy going. Is training required? How many hours should each person complete a year? Is it part of their annual growth plan? Is it attached to their compensation? How will you reward and incentivize?

A good rule of thumb is that, if you make training required, you should attach it to compensation and growth plans. You also will need to allow training to be done during work hours, or you might have to pay time-and-a-half. If you are handling independent contractors, you can’t mandate training, but you can strongly suggest it.

If you take your time to think through each of these tips, you will be well on your way to devising the right program for your organization. It’s easy to get lost in the details; try not to get too deep in them in the beginning. Like anything else, the process is fluid, and everything always can be tweaked. Don’t go at it alone; you have plenty of resources—use them.

One highly useful resource available at your fingertips is The Travel Institute’s Premium Access. Through Premium Access, members have unlimited access to more than 200 recorded lectures from industry experts on topics that include training and motivating staff. To make ongoing training easier, join Premium Access today. And, from today through December 15, you can take advantage of our Season of Savings membership promotion, entitling you to a 15-percent—or $30—savings on a Premium Access Membership annual subscription, including a new Specialist Course offered in pre-release to members only.

And did you know that The Travel Institute has the leading entry-level training program called TRIPKIT, as taught in colleges and career schools across North America and designed to teach industry basics to those who are new to the industry? It is “Travel Agent 101.” Take a look, it will save you hundreds of hours in training and give your agents the foundation they need to become productive.