Sunwing CPO: 'The difference in our culture'

What do we mean when we talk about 'authentic' culture?

Sunwing CPO: 'The difference in our culture'

What do we mean when we talk about ‘authentic’ culture?

For some leaders, it’s a strategic device, for others it’s a uniting purpose – but at Sunwing Travel Group it’s a way of life.

HRD spoke to Kelly Davis, chief people officer at Sunwing and speaker at our upcoming HR Leaders Summit Toronto, on what makes their culture so utterly unique.

“The culture over here at Sunwing is totally one of a kind,” prefaced Davis.

“We are North America's largest vertically integrated travel company. By that, I mean we have several different lines of business – including two tour operators, an Airline, a Hotel & Resorts division, a destination management company and a vacation club.

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“When I joined two years ago, there wasn't actually a global HR leader to build a people strategy across our divisions– and we purposefully ran them very separately. And so, when we describe our culture you have to bear in mind that it's very different within each of those businesses.

“We employ people in 15 different countries. This has actually been my biggest challenge to date, in trying to understand and identify all of these varying cultural ideas and norms.

“For example, our employees in Mexico have a vastly different culture, both as humans and as workers, than those in Jamaica, or the US, or Canada.

“One of the things we've done is come up with an all-encompassing rallying cry, a purpose statement for all of our divisions, and a set of core values. Our purpose is “passionate people making vacation dreams come true” and our corporate values spell the acronym EPIC.”

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And this commitment to individual authenticity is baked into the very core of Sunwing. Founded by one family around 20 years ago, it’s very much a people-led organization.

“Our founder passed the day to day running of the company over to his son, who is now our CEO. Despite our great growth over the last two decades, Sunwing still maintains a very entrepreneurial and family focused culture. 

Davis is particularly proud of the novel way in which Sunwing built their core values. Rather than dictating what these values should be, as many companies mistakenly do, the People &  Culture teams across the divisions asked the employees what sort of a culture they wanted to be a part of.

“We included people from all backgrounds and cultures - at all levels. One thing that stood out is that level of passion there is in travel and tourism. If you don't actually like serving customers and making their vacation dreams come true – then this simply isn’t the right industry for you.

“For us at Sunwing, it all comes down to that entrepreneurial spirit and deep-rooted passion for the industry and the customers we serve.”

To hear more from Kelly Davis and other leading HR experts, sign up to HR Leaders Summit Toronto here.

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