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Going the extra air mile

The BBC reports that British Airways is offering a golden hello of £1,000 for new cabin staff: it will pay new employees £500 after three months and a further £500 after six months – provided they start before July.

Like a lot of businesses, BA is struggling to ramp-up post Covid and maximise its revenue opportunities – cabin staff are one potential limiting factor ahead of the, hoped-for, August mass holiday getaway.

All airline cabin staff need to pass stringent security checks which can take several weeks or months to process. It’s therefore not surprising that BA has indicated that applicants need to have an airside ID for either Heathrow or London Stansted Airport as well as having completed cabin crew safety training.

The target for this recruitment campaign would seem to either be, people who have recently left the industry or others who are working for rival airlines. For the former, there may well be some issues from the ‘fire and rehire’ policy that BA adopted at the start of the pandemic two years ago. Our research on Emotional Intelligence in negotiating behaviour suggests that past behaviour which has been perceived to erode integrity will, in many cases, override the incentive of ‘a better deal’ (in this case £1,000).

For those tempted to make the switch from other airlines, a slightly different value system will most likely take place. Each time we make a decision, we are, as a result, deciding not to do something else. This means that in effect we are in fact in a state of almost perpetual conflict in our own heads. This requires us to negotiate with ourselves on a regular basis: quality, price, size, speed etc for any transaction we make. So for rival airline crew tempted to make the switch, the internal conflict considerations might include more intangible aspects of their current role: job satisfaction, training, feeling valued, holidays etc. as well as the tangible financial elements. If of course, a cabin crew member feels that they are unhappy with their current level of softer benefits, it may be that the only difference is money and that might become the deciding factor.

The risk however is that on this basis, for the new employer and the employee, a more ‘transactional’ relationship ensues. If the business is in a position where it needs its staff to work harder to capture and retain more customers (e.g. as a result of poor service, flight cancellations, staffing issues), the employee may be unwilling to go the extra mile to do this, given that they negotiated the deal with themselves primarily on the basis of money.

If your company finds itself trying to attract new staff with customer experience being key, it might be worth considering what other incentives could also be offered (team rewards, training, customer satisfaction KPIs) alongside cold hard cash, aligning the incentives more against your longer-term strategy. It might even cost you less in the process.

Of course, some employees might also factor in other issues. As well as the actual events themselves, our emotional association to what has happened will also have a large part to play in our decision-making going forward. For example, how a company behaved over the last couple of years in the shadow of a pandemic, and God forbid, how it might behave in the future if there was another pandemic? Will employers behave the same, or would they do things differently on reflection? More importantly, what do you trust them to do?

Sometimes we reap what we sow.

Sam Macbeth, 14th April 2022

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