Is HR Going The Way Of The Travel Agent?

Quick: What is your first thought when you think of Travel Agents?

Mine? 1970’s and 1980’s, women working in strip malls, with sunny vacation posters on the windows selling over-priced-all-inclusive vacations and cruises to Mr. and Mrs. Middle America.

Quick: What is your first thought when you think of HR Managers?

Wait! Don’t answer that.

Time had a great piece recently of how Travel Agents might be the most misunderstood occupation in America today.  Most people, if you asked, would believe travel agents are no longer needed.  We have the Internet!  Expedia. Orbitz. Travelocity. Kayak. Why would anyone with half a brain ever use a Travel Agent?!  But, wait.  Here are some facts from the article on the travel industry:

– 8,000 travel agencies in the U.S.

– 64% of all air travel is booked through travel agents – that’s $84 Billion worth!

-64% of all cruises are still booked through agents

Why use an agent?  They give you the customer service you don’t get from an internet site, and solve travel problems.  Does it cost more? Yep.  You pay for what you get.  I had a young employee recently who booked a trip to Vegas on her own. Cheap airline, limited flights. Weather became a problem and flights were cancelled.  Next flights not for another couple of days.  No, we won’t move you to another airline – it’s an act of G*d.  No, we won’t give you your money back, we can give you a voucher for another flight.  No, your deposit for your hotel won’t be refunded.  Vegas trip blown up.  Travel agents wouldn’t have booked that trip.

Does this remind you of any other industry? (Hint: HR)

HR Technology is moving the way of complete manager self-service.  Need to add an employee to your staff – we’ve got a program for that.  What about onboarding that new employee? Got you covered!  Performance Management? Come on, we specialize in that — give us something challenging!  Training? Bingo. What can’t HR Tech currently do, that we do in HR?!

“Hello, Travel Agent, I need to book a trip out of HR!”

What you find out quickly, is your value to an organization is not measured in the ‘tactics’ you do.

Travel agents aren’t about booking your flights. Yeah, they do that, but you pay them for when your trip begins to blow up.  When there’s a mile long line at the airport desk to re-book, and you make one call and have it done for you.  Get to a horrible hotel two thousand miles from home?  Don’t worry, Mr. Sackett, we’ll get you into something nice tonight.

HR isn’t about all those jobs that the tech can do.  HR is about what we can do to help our organizations become more successful.  It’s about having the one on one conversation with the new manager who isn’t getting the most out of her team, and helping her get more out of that team.  It’s about helping a star employee understand their role in the future and why ‘our’ organization values them.  It’s about ensuring our mission, values and vision is carried out across all parts of our organization.

HR technology companies can create a piece of software that can do just about anything.  What that software can’t do is replace your interactions you have within your organization.  Get out of your office today and go touch some employees, properly.



3 thoughts on “Is HR Going The Way Of The Travel Agent?

  1. Technology is great, I’m really in to the paperless, self service processes. With less administrative duties I can focus more on the people part of our business, and this to me is what makes an organization successful!

  2. Hey Tim –

    I agree with ya. HR tech isn’t meant to replace real humans. It’s meant to free us up from repeatable, transactional tasks so we can get away from our inbox and make a real difference with our coworkers. Perhaps there’s a tendency for some folks to get stuck thinking they can sit back and let tech do their jobs? Those folks, perhaps, are the ones who are replaceable. Or simply outsourced to IT. They’ve lost sight of the reason they got into HR in the first place.

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