The CEO of United Airlines, along with his leadership team, recently decided to replace employee bonuses with a game-show style lottery for prizes. Inc. writer Chris Matyszczyk notes in a recent post that “it’s about first deciding…Then, it’s about choosing words.” I don’t necessarily disagree with Matyszczyk’s other commentary on the situation, but…

focus group

Listen to employees to confirm decisions prior to implementation

…the first item of business should have been research. What do employees need to ensure performance that supports achievement of business goals? Is the new program the right kind of change? What do employees think about this potential change? What if it’s the wrong kind of change?

Cotton pants

I am reminded of a telecommunications CEO in the late 90s who announced – on a lovely spring day – that cotton pants were no longer appropriate workplace attire. The dress code was changed and cotton pants were on the naughty list.

No research was conducted. Moreover, no critical thinking was done regarding potential ramifications. Imagine his surprise when the topic hit the front page, above the fold of the metro newspaper the very next day.

Logically, the first question that came to mind was “what does enforcement look like?” Would there be fabric content police in the halls? I can hear it now: “show me your label.”

More importantly, if cotton wasn’t ok, what about a cotton blend? And, how would employees afford to purchase more expensive pants in rayon, linen and silk? Or, perhaps polyester would become the go-to. [Shudder!] In the end, he reversed the decision.

Logic prevails

It would appear that United is pulling back from their new program. Smart decision, particularly as United’s direction stood in stark contrast to corporate announcements of extra bonuses and pay resulting from the tax cut.

As a long-time United defender – they’ve nearly always taken good care of me and my family – I’m at a loss with this decision. Coupled with their recent knee-jerk reaction on the NRA, I may need to think where my flying dollars go. Alternatively….

…..United, why don’t you hire me to help you rethink your employee communication experience? If a consultant encouraged this idea, you clearly need a new consultant.