An Innovative Approach to Training and Sustainability – Q&A with Mr. Dean Souter

If you’ve followed us over the past 21 years, you’ll know that we consciously develop products and services without compromising the precious communities or breathtaking environments we take travelers to. From the discontinuation of wet tissues for travelers to the Refill Not Landfill project, we’ve always sought to improve our services in a responsible, ethical way.

As well as regular training by external organizations (such as Travelife and Childsafe), our Training & Development team recently launched a new internal platform to facilitate modern training techniques. The new Easia E-Learning website was launched in May, with the very first course available to the teams “Introduction to Sustainability – Level 1” providing a refresher on the aims and objectives for Easia as a responsible DMC.

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Passing the course (which is mandatory for all staff) ensures an understanding of what values Easia places on sustainability as an employer and as a DMC; reinforces guidelines that all staff are required to follow; and educates the teams about past, current and future actions for the company.

We recently asked our Training & Development Manager Mr. Dean Souter – the unsung hero that few outside Easia know about – to take a break from educating our teams to explain a little more about the new platform, and how Easia approach the development of the teams.


Hi Dean, can you please tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and your time at Easia? When did you join the company and what’s your role here in Hanoi?

Originally from Australia, I have been living and working in Vietnam for the past 12 years and more recently working with Easia since 2016. My background is essentially in education and upon entering Vietnam, I took a role as an Academic Director at a major learning center here in Hanoi.

It was at that time that I met one of the founders of Easia, Thuy Hoa, who invited me to join the team as Training and Development Manager. From my conversations with Thuy Hoa, as well as my personal observations, I could see that Easia Travel places great value on its human resources and their personal as well as professional development and realized we would be a good fit. I’m very glad that I made the decision to join Easia, and here I am today.

Can you please give us an overview of what kind of training you and your team do for the Easia staff?

An inherent philosophy of Easia travel is its a great emphasis on investing in its staff. The professional development roadmap for staff at Easia offers many opportunities for them to grow and progress to more senior positions within the company.

For example, a dedicated and motivated Sales Executive can work their way towards becoming a Sales Team Leader with the knowledge that such an appointment will made on merit, not by currying favor.

So, to facilitate such merit based development, and provide the roadmap, I and my team have focused on the required skills training. In some cases that can be simple on the job skills training and in other cases more management focused soft skills training such as ‘Leading with Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘Managing Teams Effectively’.

At the same time, all this has been underpinned by a continuing focus on the English Language proficiency, with English classes, and English Clubs and TOEIC test training.

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So how did the concept for the Easia Academy come about?

From virtually my very first day at Easia Travel and my subsequent conversations with all levels of staff in all our destinations I was quite overawed by the sheer volume of knowledge and expertise that that the staff collectively possessed. Whether it pertained to sales skills, destinations and products, on-the spot tour operations, or you name it, the level of knowledge was outstanding.

At the same time, while performing a training needs analysis I realized that the sharing of this knowledge within the company had many limitations.

Considering a modern day solution, the concept of the Easia Academy and an online learning platform was born. Now, any staff member working in any department can have access to the latest knowledge and best practice information related to 100’s of topics relevant to them.

All the knowledge that previously existed in only the minds of the many individuals is now all being captured in one place and able to be shared to all. This is not only invaluable for existing staff to expand their knowledge but also for any newcomers that join the company, who now have a very clear skills requirement and learning journey pathway.

At the same time, the way information contained in the platform is presented in varied, colorful and interactive ways offers the opportunity for learners to be positively and actively engaged as well as earn certificates and merit badges on their learning journey.

Of course, for me and my team, that means less travel to our destinations throughout Southeast Asia to provide face to training. As much as we loved the travel, we are happy to no longer be leaving such a potentially large carbon footprint. I am 100% confident that our Easia Academy E-Learning Platform is a win-win for everyone at Easia and will see us further grow and develop as a leading DMC in SEA.

And can you please tell us a little about the platform, without getting too technical 😛 ?

In addition to all positives I listed above and without getting too technical each staff member is provided an account, which when the log in, leads them to their homepage. Here they will find the list of courses they are required to study as well as a list of which courses may be of interest and are therefore optional to study.

As an aside, I am pleased to see the motivation that many staff have to study the optional courses that are outside their direct field of work demonstrates a commitment to our culture of continuous learning.

Each course on the platform begins with a course description written to demonstrate why this particular course is relevant to their professional development as well as a list of the learning outcomes. This means that it is very clear from the beginning of a course what the focus is and what is expected to be learned to acquire the certificate and merit badge.

In addition, the platform provides a vast array of data, reviewed internally, that supports detailed analysis of the learning journey of all staff at Easia.

I understand each staff will have a ‘roadmap’ of training courses to help them grow and develop, specific to their position?

Yes, working with heads of departments and team leaders, individual learning roadmaps are created for each staff member. For example, all newcomers to the company, on their first day, will study the Orientation Training. This training gives them an overview of the company as whole, a brief insight into the various individual departments, the company history its values, some the tools they will work with who are some of the key individual they will encounter and an overview of the company’s expectations of them.

All this supported by later being escorted around the company and introduced face to face to our friendly and welcoming team. From there, depending on their role within the company their journey is carefully mapped out and incudes all the policies, procedures, knowledge, skills ands tools training that are required to perform their role.

For existing staff, training on updates and changes to processes and procedures, refresher and other relevant training topics will be mapped out by their head of department or team leader. Furthermore, all of this will be linked to our HR competency requirements.

And sustainability was the first topic that all staff have to do when the platform was launched – could you explain why that was chosen?

Currently, as a part of the company’s commitment to our destinations and the environment, our people and the people we work with in the community, we are undergoing the process of Travelife certification. To understand better about the concept of Travelife, I invite you to click on this link.

So, one of the steps towards certification is to ensure that all our staff are well versed on our sustainability polices and more than that, can put these policies into practice in their work as well as daily lives. I’m pleased to say that not only was the feedback we received from staff about the course positive, but that I have also seen some notable changes in behavior.

For example, staff bringing their own reusable containers to lunch shops to buy takeaway and this avoiding single use plastic wastage. For me, well, I’m getting used to slightly less cold air-conditioning, but it’s a price I’m happy to pay. 😉

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So what about the next project for T&D? How do you keep innovating after such a big leap!?

Still linked to the platform, but very importantly, we have 3 main goals:

1. To work with our HR consultants to very effectively link our training to our HR core competencies and the KPI project. Sounds simple on paper, but I plan to make it my mission that such HR development requirements are easily integrated to the learning journeys of all our staff and that they will view such requirements as a positive step in their personal and professional development.
2. To continue to add useful, effective courses to the platform that engage the learners in such way that not only supports their development but provides a totally positive experience. Also, until now our initial focus has been on newcomers and more junior level existing staff. This ‘training development’ will in time expand to higher level, and even management level staff.
3. I’ve always been amazed by how well our marketing team supports our sales team to support our clients with a variety of external tools such as the Easia website and the Agent Hub with access to factsheets about our products and destinations. The volume of information is huge and is often supported by the Webinars conducted by the Production Teams. However, as a trainer, I understand that the having access to information and having a structured way to acquire knowledge and information are quite different things. Over time, I will work with the relevant teams who will work with our clients to understand how we can better provide ‘certified’ training to our clients that will meet their needs to become even more expert on our products and destinations. Our Easia Academy will be the perfect platform to achieve that.

Want to find out more about sustainable activities in Southeast Asia? Visit our Agent Hub and apply the filter “Sustainable” to view over 250 services available within our destinations.

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