- 23rd October 2017
- Posted by: People in Flow
- Category: HRIF Blog
A Journey’s Tale
A story of ‘bonkersness’ at BA – and they are not alone!
Last week I had the pleasure of having meetings in Lisbon, Portugal. The meetings were very positive, the food and experience in the city, fantastic. Lunch on the final day a very special exploration into the suburbs and well worth it.
However, getting there was – stressful. With a stated aim of removing stress from the workplace I felt a
particular responsibility to help those most impacted. In this case, not the customers but the cabin crew. The lack of an informed, integrated, coordinated and collaborative management of an unfortunate delay caused by a mechanical issue put unnecessary stress on those in the front line. The ridiculous measures of performance required by HR and dreamt up by management (conspicuously absent) certainly did little to provide People Support. HR and People in Flow, for whom I work, advocate a need for Impact People Support to replace HR in the building of people centred performance achievement. Measures, as needed, need to be fair and appropriate.
So, what happened? The flight was slightly delayed, yet all boarded around 30 minutes late. Thirty minutes later the captain announced that the steering was faulty and quite rightly the engineers were not letting us take off. An alternative plane was next door. Another 30 minutes later after a few miss-calls we were asked to disembark and board a bus (raining heavily now) to travel the fifty yards to the plane next door. Airport authorities unable to let us up the bridge to the next gate and back down to the plane. Two hours and fifty-four minutes after the original departure time we were airborne. Six minutes inside the compensation barrier! Throughout the delay the captain had politely and calmly kept us up to date with the information given to him… unfortunately whoever was talking to him was either ill-informed or less than honest with him, as at each stage we experienced something quite different.
On the face of it, an experience many have suffered. As was the reaction of the passengers. Several passengers lost all sense of context at quite an early stage, demanding the stewardess fix the steering immediately, complaining of the ‘unbelievable inconvenience’ of changing plane, the rain, the demand to speak to the captain, the blunt and rude response to polite enquiries as to whether they would like to buy a tea. These people were clearly VERY important, and we had to be made aware. I suspect that all had their flight paid for by their company yet, their plans for world domination had taken a slight setback and we all had to hear how annoyed they were. Especially the cabin crew. They were finding things out at the same time as everyone else. Chris, Shelley and the rest of the team were incredibly professional and took every ‘unnecessary punch’ landed by these fellow ‘passengers.’
But what were the real issues? BA had absolutely zero interest in the customers, save ensuring we took off inside 3 hours. No decision taken had the customer front and centre. Every decision was ‘cost’ driven -can they get any leaner? There was no evidence from the hidden management that the words ‘fly to serve’ were important to them. The measures of performance were probably such that the excellent cabin crew will be negatively impacted through the complaints of the few – those who demonstrated the most displeasure at the airline directly at the cabin crew. They took the flak at the time and will likely take the consequence later. Those responsible for mis-information, poor responsiveness, and uncoordinated action (ground staff were not aware of the need for the buses) may even get rewarded for those 6 minutes!
It became hot – though no water is available until the 3 hours. This was the one flaw in crew responses, and it appears they have not been trained in how to deal with the ridiculous policy that water cannot be given. They said ‘’the rule is 3 hours,’’ rather than – perhaps – ‘’they would if they could but unfortunately the accountants would sack them!’’‘Go beyond’... rationalise the potential power and performance that may then be generated Click To Tweet
What to learn?
Customer service and experience is clearly not important when held against cost – be honest! Replace ‘fly to serve’ with ‘fly to profit.’ OR mean it and give the cabin crew some freedom within a framework to take responsibility in the moment and ‘serve’ to ease the experience in such circumstances. TRUST them. Let rhetoric marry reality.
Let performance measures align to purpose and intent rather than easy to track yet irrelevant and misleading data. There is no way the annoying (yet clearly self-important) few should be the ones impacting the rewards of those most deserving in this saga. Nor should those managers and staff behaving contra to purpose be the ones rewarded. The ‘bonkersness’ is in the way performance management is implemented and the way it is linked to reward. The ‘bonkersness’ is in the lack of integrated, informed, coordinated and collaborative response. The ‘bonkersness’ is in the absence of ‘People Support’ in the way HR and management are operating – in this instance at least.
I don’t believe this to be an isolated example. Nor are BA the only culprit. Apparently, what matters is not seen and what doesn’t – judges. It is an example of the need to change. The need is to now ‘Go beyond’ the process, to fully explore all people impacts – on staff and on customers and to rationalise the potential power and performance that may then be generated.
- In the race through e-passport the loudest passenger was held up – some justice then for the rest of us and let’s hope for the same for the cabin crew.
Neville Pritchard – Chair HR in Flow, Director People in Flow
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