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Editor’s Note: Martin Cowen is a contributing editor to the Amadeus Blog. He is a freelance writer, editor and moderator with a global perspective on B2B travel technology and B2C trends. In this in-depth interview with Sabine Hansen Peck, who leads Amadeus’s People & Culture organization, he takes us through our corporate culture, the Amadeus Way, and how we build diversity and inclusion across the company.
How does a globally active technology business, employing nearly 19,000 people with offices in 190 countries, create and implement a corporate culture which helps to not only attract and retain talent but also encourage diversity, inclusion and business success?
At Amadeus, these efforts are led by Sabine Hansen Peck, Senior Vice President of People, Culture, Communication and Brand. She often mentions Peter Drucker’s famous phrase, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” to explain her organization’s focus on delivering business success.
Her role is increasingly business-critical for Amadeus because “in a world where almost everything can be copied in an instant, your people and culture are your biggest asset and competitive advantage. We find ourselves in the midst of a fast-changing travel and technology industry, and as the business is changing in response to these challenges, we need to cultivate a culture that makes us unique and which helps us continue to evolve.”
Sabine is aware that most businesses have core values, branding guidelines or mission statements on glossy corporate brochures. “It’s super-easy to talk the talk,” she says, “but it is far more difficult to walk the talk. Culture brings us together and is the fuel to translate strategy into results. At Amadeus, the commitment to change comes from the very top.”
Rather than opt for a mission statement, Sabine’s team introduced “The Amadeus Way,” a series of six questions which can be applied to decision-making and processes – big and small -- across the entire organisation.
“We gathered insights from more than 400 company leaders, crowdsourced feedback from thousands of staff and distilled our learning into these questions. We believe that questions are more engaging; they encourage dialogue, open new avenues. Instead of telling people what not to do, they serve to help each of us reflect on our behavior. Questions resonate with a mostly analytical workforce that includes many engineers.”
Amadeus is a technology company and is competing with every other tech company out there for staff. “There is a war for talent, so we have to be a company where tech talent thrives and has a fulfilling career,” she said.
With millennials now the dominant demographic in the workplace, having a proposition built for this group is vital, too. “Our research discovered what is important to millennial candidates – they want to make an impact, they want an international career with global opportunities, they want to work on exciting stuff.”
Developers and engineers, in particular, want to work on cutting edge, next generation technologies and Amadeus can offer that. The shift towards open systems and the cloud, away from mainframes and legacy tech, adopting agile ways of working, has laid the groundwork for this.
“Once they have joined Amadeus, our culture is a crucial tool in retaining talent. For example, our global presence means there is an opportunity to work overseas, and we have formal processes in place to encourage this, and support for anyone making the move.”
The law of averages dictates that a business with around 19,000 employees cannot be anything other than diverse. But achieving equality while embracing inclusion cannot be left to chance, it requires a commitment to these aims, a commitment confirmed by Amadeus appointing a chief diversity officer as long ago as 2015. It was the first blue-chip Spanish company to do so.
At that time, diversity was a nice-to-have rather than a C-suite requirement. Evidence from research houses such as McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group showed that companies with a diverse workforce generated more revenue than their homogenous white-men-in-suits peers.
Closing the gender pay gap is a prerequisite for any company claiming equality. Sabine has formalised this goal by employing industry-standard processes which eliminate gender bias.
“At the senior level, I tell executive head-hunters that we want a diverse slate – if they only bring us one type of candidate, they lose our business,” she added.
Elsewhere, Amadeus is encouraging young women to get involved in science, technology, engineering and maths. The company supports global initiatives such as GirlsWhoCode and Inspiring Girls. While the former can help young women who have decided on a career in tech, the latter is all about role models – giving 10-15-year-old girls the chance to talk to women who are succeeding in traditionally male-dominated careers.
The world today is at an interesting juncture. There has never been a more pressing need for enterprises to do more to encourage diversity, inclusion and equality, at a time when some societies are seeing pushback in these areas.
“Culture in the workplace is hard to get right,” she said, “because people are complex. We know that to succeed as a global technology business we have to have a culture that will help attract and retain talent around the world. We see it as a competitive advantage.”