How engaged employees ‘transformed Continental Airlines’ fortunes’

Employee engagement 'transformed Continental Airlines'

June 22, 2015

US business icon Gordon Bethune is widely hailed as the man who transformed ailing Continental Airlines into an industry leader.

It took a decade but the change is impressive. And Bethune is straight to the point over the secret of his success – involving employees.

At the start of Bethune’s stint at the organisation in 1994, the business regularly finished bottom in customer satisfaction surveys as well as facing crippling cash flow issues.

By the time Bethune retired as CEO in 2004, Continental – since purchased by United Airlines – had become one of the most profitable firms in the industry.

Bethune’s approach is clear: people, people, people. Involve your employees, watch them flourish and reap the rewards.

He told website freeenterprise.com: “How did we do it? We became America’s most on-time airline.

“How did we do that? We focused on that every day, and the record still stands. So, it can be done from a dispirited last place.

“We lost something like $600 million in 1994. In 1995, we made $225 million—with the same people and the same airplanes.

“So, it wasn’t anything wrong with the employees. It was the management — and it always is.”

How did Bethune and the CA senior leadership reach out to connect with employees and build the engagement behind such impressive results?

His approach, he says, was deliberately designed to promote two-way communication.

He said: “I communicated a lot during my time at Continental.

“I did a voicemail that was 3-5 minutes that basically told everybody what was going on, and what they could expect.

“The twist was that you could voicemail me back through the phone service, and they could tell me what was on their minds. In any case, it was a secure, frequent, respectful voicemail to employees.

“You ever watch a football team when they have a huddle before a play? It’s not just the big shots in the huddle.

“It’s the team. Everybody’s got to know what we’re doing. That kind of respect for your employees — they notice that.”

To read the full article, visit freeenterprise.com here….