Meet Victoria O’Rourke, Reed & Mackay’s Global HR Director. As a new year begins, and as January is traditionally a time when hiring budgets take effect, Victoria shares her thoughts on what attracts potential employees looking for careers in business travel, the best ways to retain current employees and how hiring has changed in recent years.

Tell us about your career background – what was your journey to becoming Global HR Director for a global business travel management company?

It was all down to working at Reed & Mackay – I’ve been with the company for 26 years! I joined as a temp, working as a PA to Reed & Mackay Founder and Executive Director Tracy Baumfield and Director Richard Boardman, our MD at the time. I stayed on as a PA for a number of years, managing a team and then, as the company started growing (we were around 80 staff), I was asked how I felt about starting an HR department here. I was really ready for a change but I loved working for Reed & Mackay, so this was a great way to stay somewhere I loved that would also really broaden out my career.

Why did you think this was the right time to move into HR?

I realised early on I had a passion for helping people and contributing to a business. I loved the culture here then – and I still do today – so while I started the HR function on my own, I was able to build a strong team as the travel management company grew, instilling the values the business taught me across the organisation.

I’m still here today because I’ve had a fortunate career progression. Working for a corporate travel business has allowed me to grow and learn; there have been many opportunities, either through acquisitions we’ve made, and when we started going global. I can think of so many people that have been on similar journeys at Reed & Mackay – around a tenth of employees in the UK have been with the business for more than 10 years.

We’re still offering those career progression opportunities because the business is always evolving. We’re very much in the next period of growth and, in HR, you have to keep ahead of the curve of what that means for a company’s people.

Challenges in travel recruitment were well documented last year. Do you think we will have moved on from those challenges in 2023?

It’s true that recruitment remains difficult across the globe and it’s not just within the travel industry. But people aren’t put off about coming into the travel industry; they say they love a challenge and that the industry interests them. For example, we started a recruitment push back in August 2021 but we did it in a measured way, recruiting in phases. So we’ve been growing, but at a steady pace.

What do you think attracts people to work for a company?

Obviously, the pandemic caused so much unsettlement with recruitment and people had no other choice but to consider other roles outside travel. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that people feel part of a business, that the business cares about the people who work for it. When you have incredible people working for you, it’s essential you retain those people.

For example, not everyone is looking for promotion but would like ways in which they can get involved in different projects or workshops, things that give them a voice and a way to contribute aside of their main role. People want to feel valued. Different people have different needs in every business.

What does Reed & Mackay offer current and prospective employees that meets those different needs?

It’s a mixture of many things. The generation coming through now regularly rate a company’s sustainability as a key factor when choosing who to work for. They’re asking, does a business really care enough about the planet to do something about it and how can I play a part in that? At Reed & Mackay, we champion responsible travel but we also put it at the heart of our own company. For example, we have committed to set near- and long-term company-wide emission reduction targets in line with climate science with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). We have a dedicated group of sustainability champions – employees that have volunteered to be those champions, because it’s an important issue to them.

Offering hybrid, flexible working, the opportunity to work from home, is still important. And, as well as good benefits, people are looking for the right working culture for them. I always ask interviewees what type of cultures they have worked within before that they’ve liked or disliked; it’s important the culture is right for all parties. And, of course, offering training and development that not only incorporates helping employees’ career progression but also training that invests in people themselves, whether it be around diversity, equality and inclusion, wellbeing, security, all such important areas.  

And what about support around mental health and wellbeing services?

Yes, this is key to us. Our People team works closely on initiatives throughout the year providing our employees with various channels to tap into; wellbeing webinars, the Thrive app, we have mental health first aiders across the business, we have also introduced guidance around managing menopause in the workplace, which received such a positive response. Our wellbeing services are an area we will continue to evolve and provide globally. People want to work for a business where they feel looked after – and it’s important to us that we offer it.

Finally, what are the top three elements you enjoy most about working for Reed & Mackay?

Firstly, it’s the people. I’ve stayed in the business so long because we’ve always had such a wonderful team of talented individuals. People that work hard and support one another.

I also like how we give our staff a voice. It’s a safe place for people to come up with ideas or speak out if they don’t think something works. For everyone here, what they say really matters.

And finally, our value of fun – I look around the business and, as well as seeing people working hard, I see people having fun and forming amazing working relationships and friendships. People spend most of their week working and to be able to do so in a culture like this makes it all the easier.


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