people walking on suspension bridge in forest
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Booking.com is all about exploring—literally. Visit the website or use the app and you’ll gain access to everything you could possibly need to start an adventure, whether you need to book a flight or find a hotel, or travel for a day or a month.

But as a company, Booking.com believes that career exploration is just as important as sending someone on a trip across the globe. (Although it does that, too, providing employees with discounted rates on travel.)

Between offering learning and development opportunities and allowing employees to be highly mobile across roles and regions, Booking.com believes that when employees have room to explore—into a new field, a new department, or a new career step—everyone comes out on top. Here’s why they’ve invested so much in this idea.


1. It Helps Employees Be Their Best Selves

Betsy Steckler has always been passionate about people development. Working as a regional director at Booking.com, she’s had the opportunity to be involved with their people initiatives and see the impact investing in individuals’ long-term careers can have.

So much of her work, she says, “ties back to our overall mission and really the idea around wanting our employees, just like our consumers and our partners, to explore and create these experiences that make them more aware of the world around them, more aware of what’s out there, and more aware of cultures.” When employees are placed in an environment where exploration isn’t just accepted but highly encouraged, “you get the very best out of people,” she says.


2. It Leads to the Development of Future Leaders

Steckler says that Booking.com prides itself not just on strong performance management structures and feedback loops, but on its employees venturing outside their familiar domains.

When the company considers its employees’ growth and development, she says, “it’s not about just saying you’re an account manager for life or you’re a customer service agent for life.” Which is why the company has invested so heavily in developing its internal platform, Discover, that hosts various learning modules—be it videos or online classes or documentation—to help employees learn the skills they need to excel in whatever field they choose to venture into. “By doing that, we’re actually framing our future leaders,” she adds.

Lateral moves are commonplace at Booking.com as a result. “So much of our customer service group allows for that upward mobility into other roles outside of customer service,” Steckler says. “There’s also a lot of opportunity for our talent to move around the world. I’ve seen so many examples where you have account managers that are from our Mexico City location or our Brazil location or Chile location and they move around the country.” No transition is too big for a company that places a high emphasis on seeing the world from every perspective.


3. It Improves Their Product and Reach

Not surprisingly, when Booking.com employees use the site to cash in on their employee benefits, they become helpful test subjects for continuing to improve the product and services the company offers.

“A partner could be somebody who has a little bed and breakfast somewhere in the middle of Tuscany or somebody who is doing self-guided walking tours in Barcelona,” Steckler says. “By encouraging our employees to explore and experience things from the lens of a customer, but also from the lens of a partner trying to create this experience for a customer, it just makes us better equipped at providing products and services that are best going to support both our customers and our partners.”

Employees are also encouraged to provide feedback about their experiences using their own platform. “There’s a feedback mechanism that says, ‘How did the tool work?’ ‘Did the tool produce results in a way that was consistent with what you thought?’” Steckler explains. That feedback can be incredibly valuable in making the platform even better.

Plus, providing employees with discounted travel turns them into brand ambassadors. “The more that I can advocate our brand both as an employee and as a consumer of our brand, the more I can have an opportunity to influence consumer awareness,” Steckler adds.


4. It Reinforces Their Mission

When you work for a company that’s all about bringing experiences and exploration to people, wherever they are, it certainly helps to follow that same mission internally if you want your people to be as happy as your customers.

“Booking really encourages all of us as employees to explore and to try new things,” says Steckler. “So when we think about bonuses or benefits or things that are part of our overall package, they’re always with this air of ‘go create a new experience.’”

She adds, “Whether I’m learning something new or I’m exploring a new part of the country or even a new part of the world, that ability to see it through the lens of the people that you’re traveling with and for me, most importantly, my children, there’s something pretty special about that.”