United Airlines has unveiled the latest iteration of its employee bonus program, a plan that theoretically could pay employees more but likely will pay less.
The old program awarded $100/month for hitting operational targets (paid on a quarterly basis).
Under the new program, employees can earn up to $125/month. $75 of of that will be dependent upon customer satisfaction scores while $50 will depend upon on-time departures. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
Customers are asked to rate their flight on a score between 1 to 5 according to feedback form distributed by email after their flight. Per United Executive Vice President for Human Resources, Kate Cebo, “Our goal for 2019 is to achieve a score that’s at least one point higher than in 2018, and we’ll share monthly goals as we go.”
There’s still a layer of opaqueness about this. Will employees have transparency into the raw data? What sort of improvements will be necessary in order to continue to earn bonuses? The details are still unfolding.
Unless I misunderstand the new policy, it offers an inherently limited lifespan. If the goal is a one point improvement per year and scores are only ranked 1 to 5, it will be nearly impossible to move that score up any higher after a good year. I also question the reliability of these surveys in the first place: surely they attract only those most happy or unhappy, but usually unhappy. Admittedly, I have not filled out a single survey this year. Maybe I will start doing so now…
The $50/month bonus will require United to post better on-time departure stats (D:00) than American, Delta, and Southwest. United slipped slightly in punctuality this year and President Scott Kirby wants to change that in 2019.
I’m personally not a fan of pushing hard for on-time departures over on-time arrivals. While flights may run into all sorts of operational and weather delays beyond the control of the airline, the only thing customers care about is on-time arrivals. Who cares if your flight departs 20 minutes late if it pulls up to the gate early? On the contrary, what difference does an on-time departure make if there is no gate for the plane when it lands and you end up disembarking 30 minute late? By pushing so hard to close the door on time, upgrades and standby lists risk being skipped.
Is this an improvement over the old program? No. Maybe the problem is introducing a bonus in the first place, which quickly becomes an entitlement.
The new changes to the bonus program will likely dampen morale, as a $125/month potential is less than a reliable extra $100/month.
But this bonus program is a huge improvement over Kirby’s televangelist-style lottery system which was a tone-deaf insult to employees who work very hard to make United operationally reliable.
So, is the new program naughty or nice? It is too early to tell.
(H/T: Brian Sumers @Skift)