After American’s earnings calls the company’s executives meet with employees and take their questions. One of the questions was about the airline’s internal employee survey which revealed that
- only 32% of employees believe American’s leaders listen to and “seek to understand the frontline team member experience.”
- only 33% believe leadership makes “the right decisions that support” employees. Fewer than half believe they have “the flexibility to meet the needs of our customers who fly American” when things go wrong.
- only 38.9% say that “people at American trust and respect each other.”
When asked for his takeaway from the survey one of American CEO Doug Parker’s comments was really telling, and if he internalizes it actually could change the culture. It was clear at American’s media and investor day that they’re giving employees raises, trying to give them better access to benefits, but they lack a vision for employees to rally around. People need to feel like they’re on a mission that’s greater than themselves, and they need to like and respect their colleagues, in order to do more than phone it in at work.
Parker realizes now that employees don’t understand the vision for the airline.
Three years isn’t enough. Pay increases isn’t enough. There’s a huge gap that we need to keep working on and also I would add a bit of a surprise to me was seeing the front line saying they don’t understand kind of the strategy of the company. That’s not exactly what the question said but that’s what it feels like as you get through it all. That we haven’t done a good job of explaining who the company is and where we’re going.
American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
The problem of course isn’t one of communication. It’s that the airline lacks a clear vision. I spent a full day listening to the airline’s executives and never heard a vision other than ‘never lose money again’. It’s not clear if they’re a premium airline that’s supposed to focus on customer needs, or a deep discount carrier that’s moving self-loading cargo. Employees don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish either.