Monday, March 05, 2018

United Airlines Eliminates Bonuses, Angers Employees

News reports this morning indicate that United Airlines has announced a significant change to its employee compensation policies.  The company has eliminated quarterly employee bonuses amounting to roughly $1,200 per year.   Instead, employees will be entered into a lottery in which a few lucky winners will receive cash payouts.  Others will not receive anything.  Only those with perfect attendance will be eligible for the lottery-type payouts.  United  Airlines President Scott Kirby issued a memo to employees explaining the change. Inc. magazine reports on several quotes from the memo:

“As we look to continue improving, we took a step back and decided to replace the quarterly operational bonus and perfect attendance programs with an exciting new rewards program called ‘core4 Score Rewards.'" 

"The reason for this change goes to the heart of our strategy: offering meaningful rewards will build excitement and a sense of accomplishment with more bang for the buck." 

"We want every United team member to picture themselves walking home with a grand prize, or driving home in a beautiful car that announces for all to see that you are committed to your success and ours."

Multiple reports indicate that employees are not pleased, to say the least. "The Points Guy" online travel site obtained a number of employee comments posted over the weekend on tthe airline’s “Flying Together” internal forum (in total, the Points Guy reports that more than 1,700 comments were posted on this forum). Here's one comment:

I find it unbelievable that management is so out of touch with their work force. To tout this announcement as something that workers would be excited about and appreciate just shows how elitist they are. This program is totally contradictory to the CORE4 “we are listening, we are one” philosophy!

Bill Murphy at also reported on some of these employee comments.   According to his article, employees offered comments such as:

"It occurred to me and my wife that this is terribly unfair to single parents. ... Imagine your child coming home sick from school, no fault of your own. You are faced with calling in sick thus losing your 'chance' at a bonus or leaving your child/children home alone to care for themselves. What a terrible situation United has put that person in." --First Officer - B-767/B-757

"I can't imagine driving the Mercedes into the employee lot while everyone around me that worked just as hard, or harder got nothing. I would feel like such a jerk. It's quite telling about the people who thought this up. I bet they would be gloating happily if they won." --Flight Attendant - Domestic

I'm fascinated to see how United responds to this furor that has emerged in news reports, social media, their internal forum, and in the form of a petition.  It certainly sounds as though they did not seek widespread input from front-line employees before making this change, and they did not test the messaging sufficiently before sending out this memo.   What a mess they have created!  As the old adage goes, it takes years to build trust within your organization, and it only takes one big mistake to destroy that trust.  

1 comment:

Andy Kaufman, PMP said...

Just read about this over the weekend.... I'm amazed at my ability to think that something is a good idea until I vet it out with others. This smacks of being out of touch with their front lines. I agree with you Michael that it will be interesting to see how they respond.