Travel Agents

“We need to lead by example”: Penny Spencer talks staff retention and diamond days

Ten years ago, Penny Spencer, managing director of Spencer Travel, decided to devise a plan to tackle staff retention.

The obvious course of action, she thought, would be rewards and recognition. So, on their tenth year anniversary she would give her loyal staff members a gift.

But what to give them? What would she like to receive as a reward?

Her answer was simple: diamonds.

“I came up with the idea of putting a thousand dollars a year away for each employee,” Spencer told Travel Weekly. 

“That gives you 10 thousand dollars on the tenth year, which can pay for a one-carat diamond. It’s not a huge investment, I don’t think, to get a great reward at the end of the ten years.”

And it seems to be working because Spencer has given out a whopping 10 diamond rings so far.

“I’ve had three of them this year, in fact, I had one celebrating her ten years last week. I had one a couple of weeks ago and another one about two months ago,” she said.

Which is pretty impressive seeing as more than two-thirds of Australian employers said they have seen an increase in staff departures.

This may be because only half of Aussie employers have staff appreciation and wellness programs.

And we bet MUCH less than that have diamond programs.

“Staff retention is really important because it keeps the momentum going with your clients,” Spencer told us. 

“For instance, the best part for a client is that they have the same consultant and they’re not constantly changing to different consultants, which can be quite disruptive.

“Happy staff equals happy clients, which equals profit on your bottom line.

“Clients don’t move if your staff aren’t moving because they’re happy they’ve got that same staff member. I mean we’ve got clients that have used the same consultant for 10 plus years.”

So how does Spencer make sure her employees are happy? (besides offering them diamonds, of course)

Celebrate EVERYTHING 

At Spencer Travel, they’re big on celebrations.

“We celebrate everything. Birthdays, anniversaries, whatever it is we celebrate it,” Spencer said.

“We also celebrate when we’re doing well, or when we’ve won a new client. We have a lot of champagne and a lot of cakes.”

giphy (1)

Communication is key

To make sure her employees feel they are being heard, even when they are afraid to speak up, Spencer uses software called TINYpulse, which sends anonymous feedback to management.

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I won’t know who has put a comment in Tinypulse, but I can reply to them and we can have a conversation around whatever it might be but its anonymous,” she said.

“That’s been a good thing for the business and the fact that people feel they have a voice and if they don’t want to tell me something to my face helps reinforce our open-door policy.”

Say thank you

TINYpulse also has a feature called ‘Cheers for Peers’ where you can send someone a little note praising them.

Spencer said all her staff get use out of this feature.

“It’s not just me sending a thank you, people send each other thank yous and that’s really important,” she said.

“Saying thank you to your staff is important”

giphy (2)

Lead by example

Part of having an open door policy, according to Spencer, is being transparent with your staff and leading by example.

“Do as you say. As a leader, don’t promise you’ll bring in a new fridge, for example, unless that’s what you’re going to do,” she said.

“Lead by example.

“I don’t think its right for me to do something that I don’t think the staff should be doing. We need to lead by example,” she concluded. 

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