Employee Benefits Connect 2020: At air travel organisation British Airways, the evolution and progression of digital technology is embraced as a key enabler for business success, bringing together the customer and employee experiences.
In a keynote session closing the packed conference schedule at Employee Benefits Connect 2020, Angela Williams, chief people officer at British Airways, outlined how the business has embraced technology as a method of providing for employees’ increasing expectations of fluidity, flexibility, control and lifetime learning throughout their careers.
She said: “Sustainability is becoming more of an issue; organisations need to be sustainable, whether it’s in their working practices or how they treat their people, all the way through to their carbon footprint.”
For British Airways, while researching sustainable future fuels, for example, it has also been important to consider future-proofing its working practices.
“People want to be in a place where they can work and learn at the same time; also, work needs to be a positive force for wellbeing,” said Williams. “We need healthy environments [and] a balance between health and wellbeing.”
Another area in which external and internal strategies align for the business is the use of technology. While pushing for innovative consumer strategies, such as the use of robotic technology as part of the airport navigation process, British Airways has taken the same approach to the employee experience. This includes using gamified motivation techniques, and launching augmented reality learning experiences, allowing staff to complete training modules in a way that is engaging, standardised across the organisation, and most importantly flexible in its structure, allowing it to be shaped around an individual’s needs.
However, even in the face of ever increasing technological innovation, Williams noted that there is a balance to be struck.
“There is a fear, though, [that we are] going to be ‘murdered by modernity’, by technology that we all think is making life better, but isn’t really, and the digital overload that is coming from all this new technology,” she explained. “Is it really worth the investment, or are humans going to turn away from it? It’s about making sure it doesn’t impact our mental health or our overall wellbeing, but is making our lives easier.”
For example, following global research into what staff wanted from the employer of the future, British Airways found that while digitalisation was streamlining and improving many aspects of the working day, employees wanted to move to a less form-based and more individual, face-to-face approach when it came to performance management.
“There’s a big focus around championing being human in the workplace; managers need to be human, bring themselves to work, and have empathy,” Williams said.
Overall, British Airways’ employee strategy has seen a shift in recent years, moving away from strict policies and instead focusing on flexibility and, most importantly, people. In making this shift, the organisation has made the link between engaged, supported staff and an improved consumer experience.
“How do we make sure we are competitive from a customer [and an] employee perspective? How are we making sure that we create an environment where [the employee] feels valued? It’s about creating an excellent, personalised customer experience, and in the same way, [creating] a customised, personalised [employee] experience. The culture is really changing,” Williams concluded.