With a recent consulting trip to Antarctica, Brooks Holtom, professor of management and senior associate dean for strategy, finance, and organization, has now conducted research on all seven continents — and this time, he got to see penguins, sea lions, calving glaciers, and enjoy the 28-degree Antarctic summer during his 10-day expedition to the continent last December.
Holtom traveled to Antarctica to study employee retention — how to attract, develop, and retain talented employees — for Lindblad Expeditions, a tour company offering trips to Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, and the Amazon, among other locations.
The field of specialized tour companies like Lindblad is growing, Holtom said, opening up more employment opportunities. Lindblad tends to build its own talent pool by training its employees. Other companies tend to “buy” talent, luring employees away from other organizations with premiums of 10 to 20 percent. The question Holtom studied is why employees might choose to stay with Lindblad.
“One [reason] is the degree to which they fit with the culture and value of the company,” Holtom said. Conservation is a key part of Lindblad Expeditions’ mission and identity, and one goal of Lindblad Expeditions’ tours is to expose people to nature and inspire them to become advocates for conservation.
The company’s culture also can include a positive work environment. At one point a rogue wave crashed into and damaged a company ship; about 20 employees worked around the clock for 24 hours to repair it. Afterward, the captain hosted a party for the crew to thank them for their work.
Holtom led focus groups on two ships that were along on his journey and composed a survey based on the results. He plans to follow up on the survey to compare answers with his initial results.
Holtom hopes to bring what he learns from trips like this into the classroom to demonstrate to students the value of research.
“The ability to bring in research experience, where you’re solving real problems, is what we want our students to gain when they leave,” he said. “It’s important to make the link between research and teaching.”
The next stop for Holtom’s research is Australia. Like other Georgetown McDonough faculty, Holtom's travel contributes to developing a global perspective to his work.
“Our professors are concerned with issues that transcend borders,” Holtom said. “That requires us to travel.”