American Airlines Asked Its Employees to Describe the Airline in 3 Words. What Resulted Was Sad, Sad, Sad
This was brave.
Chris MatyszczykOwner, Howard Raucous LLC
Oct 28, 2018
American Airlines realizes it may not have listened enough. To its customers, certainly. To its employees, too.
So the airline launched something called American Voice. This involves asking American's employees what they, you know, really think about the airline.
But you know what happens when you ask people to say what they really think, don't you? In a corporate context, it means they may not tell the truth. They'll try and phrase things nicely, perhaps. Or they might let their tone speak for the fact that things aren't great.
The airline, though, pushed ahead with its surveys. In parallel, however, around 27,000 Flight Attendants created their own private Facebook page to hold a survey of their own. As Lewis Lazare reports in the Chicago Business Journal, these Flight Attendants took a question from American's own survey and asked it in this private space.
Oh, the freedom. Oh, the fun. Oh the attraction for the disgruntled. What do you imagine the answers might have been? A couple of initial thoughts: Money, Money, Money. Or, perhaps, We, Love, Money. Another one could have been: No, Leg, Room. Or even No, Bath, Room.
Lazare, who got a peek at the actual results, reveals some of the answers. These, in my own life-addled opinion, truly are going for great.
One Flight Attendant replied: Greed, Depressing, Sad. You see, they've noticed American's penchant for profit above, well, anything else. Another Flight Attendant opted for a creative riff on American's Going For Great slogan. Her version: Going for crAAp. Not all decided to be creative. Some were merely solemn and descriptive. Sample: Stressful, cheap, uncaring.
I confess I've heard one or two American Airlines employees offer me a similar summation. Or, indeed, one similar to another of the answers to this private survey: Punitive, chaotic, dysfunctional.
I fear many, though, might have gravitated toward the forlorn hope of one respondee. She merely wrote: Sad, Sad, Sad.
I asked American for its reaction. I also asked what the airline had learned from the official version of the three-word answer. An airline spokeswoman told me:
- Hearing feedback is critical to our goal of making culture a competitive advantage. That's why we're encouraging team members to share their candid feedback on what we're doing well and where we have room to improve by completing American Voice, our companywide survey. We kicked off this year's survey earlier this month and we're excited to share the results with team members after the survey closes on Nov. 2.
I worry about these three-word exercises, likely invented by a highly-paid consultant. Isn't it more efficient to constantly check on your employees?
American pays its employees quite well. It took the gamble that giving them a big raise raise would make them happy. It seems not to have worked. Labor strife is rife. Some pilots and Flight Attendants are actually suing the airline. Worse, the airline's regional carriers look at how much the main airline's employees are earning and would like some crumbs of the same.
American is, though, open about some of its human deficiencies. The airline offered me the results of last year's American Voice work, which was responded to by around 59,000 employees. A mere 32 percent of them believed "leaders at American listen and seek to understand the frontline team member experience."
The airline says it's made progress. We'll see what this year's results reveal. Just as with passengers, so it is with employees. The human part matters. Sometimes, it matters more than anything.
American neglected it and now it has to ask employees for three words.
Too, late, American?