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Comment: Helloworld management style in spotlight

The “cultural health check” ordered by the board of Helloworld is, according to the company, “common practice” given the extent of the transformation taking place.

Be that as it may, the underlying reasons behind the internal review are not. Publically, the Helloworld rebrand is progressing well – the number of agents signing up is, so we are told, in line with expectations – but internally there would appear to be a degree of unrest.

Squeezing four retail brands into one was never going to be an easy task for Helloworld. Noses were going to be put out of joint and a sizeable number of agents’, protective of their respective brands, were going to be disaffected. Differences of opinion were inevitable.

But what appears to be happening at Helloworld goes beyond the mechanics of the restructure itself, but the way that restructure is being executed. The review would indicate that all is not well in the corridors and boardrooms of the freshly rebranded retailer.

A cultural health check is one thing. Ordering a review after concerns were raised over “management style” and the threat that posed to the leadership team and the wider transformation of the company, is quite another.

This does not appear to be a standard internal process to assess that all is well, but a review, conducted by external employment experts, to explore concerns that have been raised over the leadership of the company.

In short, the board has reacted to allegations that senior leaders do not possess the right style of management to push through a successful restructure.

Comments posted on the Travel Weekly website following Travel Today’s exclusive story on Wednesday, suggest they do not have those required skills.

The email sent by Helloworld chairman Tom Dery to the leadership team talks of information received from a “number of sources” that the board takes “very seriously”. What and where that information originates from is unclear.

What is clear, however, is that one of the senior team, chief executive Rob Gurney, had a lot of people to win over when, somewhat controversially, he was appointed by the board in 2012 to oversee the transition from Jetset Travelworld to Helloworld, a brand name incidentally, that has grown on me.

There is no suggestion that Gurney is the focus of this “health check”. But as chief executive, he must lead from the top, set the example and, ultimately, be responsible for the management style.

But what is the right style of management? Few organisations are perfect. There will always be clashes of personality and ideas. Tough decisions need to be made that will not please everyone, particularly in a company that, as the Helloworld statement said, is undergoing such a major transformation.

But the manner, delivery and execution of decisions must be handled in the right way, and people treated with respect.

Christina Grover, founder and managing director of employment consultancy HR Spectrum, who is spearheading the health check, may well conclude that all is well and Helloworld’s management style can continue as is. The issues raised may be unfounded.

But if not, the board will need to make tough decisions of its own in order to give the company the best chance of success.

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