In 2017 when United Airlines employees were asked what their everyday work life looked like they responded, “We have all these policies and procedures, but a lot of times they don’t match the situation.” Many of you read this and, like me, think, ‘Well, obviously.’ The most effective strategy reflects the particular competencies of those contributing to its fulfillment. Employees know best. Let’s give them the authority to discern the best approach to situations that demand a response not provided in pre-existing regulations, policies or processes. Sometimes within the organizational hierarchy we associate leadership roles with those of parents, and view employees as children. Leadership is about carrying and executing a vision, and every employee can share in that endeavor. To that end, in 2018 United adopted Core4. It asks employees to consider the following before making a judgement call. Will their actions be caring, dependable, efficient, and safe? About 30,000 employees were asked to participate in compassion training. Core4 so radically transformed the United culture that in Jan 2019 they planned to hire 10,000 more employees.
Then the pandemic hit and they lost 97% of air traffic. Suddenly, safety was the focus. Nonetheless, throughout the pandemic, among many measures taken, frontline workers were provided with personal protective equipment, and were offered online mental health services. United made a great effort to care for their employees, and to create a culture where trust and transparency were paramount. Under the leadership of Kate Gebo, executive vice president of human resources and labor relations, HR is a trusted department. In November 2020, in the depth of the pandemic, United reported its highest employee satisfaction scores to date.
People can receive even difficult truth when they are entrusted with it. Shared knowledge flattens hierarchy, empowers employees…and results in happy customers. When employees are treated with respect, chances are greater that they will extend that same respect to customers.